Penalty phase opens in Boston Marathon bombing trial

Penalty Phase of Marathon Bombing Trial to Begin
Penalty Phase of Marathon Bombing Trial to Begin

BOSTON (AP) - The life-or-death phase in the trial of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev opened Tuesday with a prosecutor telling the jurors they will come to know the four people killed and "why their lives mattered."

With enlarged photographs of the victims behind her, prosecutor Nadine Pellegrini said: "They were all beautiful, and they're all now gone." She described the killings as "unbearable, indescribable, inexcusable and senseless."

"They had time to be scared and frightened," she told the jury that will decide whether the 21-year-old Tsarnaev should get the death penalty or life in prison. "They had no time to say goodbye. That is the very essence of terror."

The prosecutor concluded her opening statement by showing the jury a photo of Tsarnaev in his jail cell, giving the finger to the video surveillance camera. It was three months after the bombings.

"He had one more message to send," Pellegrini said.

Martin Richard, an 8-year-old Boston boy; Lingzi Lu, a 23-year-old Boston University graduate student from China; and Krystle Campbell, a 29-year-old restaurant manager from Bedford, were killed in the 2013 bombing near the finish line. More than 260 others were wounded, including many who lost limbs.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer Sean Collier was killed days later, shot in the head inside his cruiser, as Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan, made their getaway.

"You know how they died, now you need to know how they lived," the prosecutor said. "You need to know and to understand why their lives mattered."

Tsarnaev was convicted earlier this month of all 30 charges against him during the trial's guilt-or-innocence phase. The penalty phase is expected to last about a month.

Tsarnaev's lawyers, who will make the case for mercy once the prosecution has put on its witnesses, are expected to portray Tamerlan as the mastermind of the bombing. They say Tsarnaev does not deserve the death penalty because he was a 19-year-old who fell under the influence of his domineering brother.

The 12-member jury must be unanimous for Tsarnaev to receive a death sentence; otherwise, the sentence will automatically be life behind bars.

Prosecutors contend Tsarnaev was a full partner with his brother in the bombing and deserves the ultimate punishment. They are expected to call people who lost legs or loved ones in the attack to describe the effect on their lives.

About a dozen people protesting against the death penalty demonstrated outside the federal courthouse Tuesday morning.

Earlier this week, the parents of 8-year-old Martin Richard urged prosecutors in a front-page letter in The Boston Globe to take the death penalty off the table.

Also, Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes, a newlywed couple severely wounded in the bombing, said life in prison would be the best outcome to assure that Tsarnaev "disappears from our collective consciousness as soon as possible."