BOSTON, Mass. (WPRI) — After two months of jury selection and two years after a pair of bombs detonated near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, the trial of surviving suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is underway.
Tsarnaev stands accused of helping his brother, Tamerlan, plan and execute the attack that killed three people and seriously injured more than 260. Opening statements were given by both sides in Boston Federal Court Wednesday, in front of a delegation of family members of the deceased, of the wounded, and the survivors themselves.
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Lead prosecutor Bill Weinreb delivered a powerful opening statement, painting for the jury a graphic picture of that day’s events.
“The defendant wasn’t there to watch the race,” Weinreb explained to the panel of 10 women and eight men. “He had a backpack over his shoulder. And in the backpack was a homemade bomb. He pretended to be a spectator, although he had murder in his heart.”
Weinreb continued through the timeline, leading up to the carjacking, murder of MIT Police Officer Sean Collier, and infamous boat capture in Watertown.
When it was the defense team’s turn to make a statement, Attorney Judy Clarke stood up and admitted that the brothers did it – calling it a “series of senseless, horribly misguided acts carried out by two brothers.”
Making it clear the defense has no intention of arguing for Tsarnaev’s innocence, she instead intends to portray Tamerlan as the radicalized mastermind, sweeping the younger Dzhokhar up into his plot.
Clarke said that Tamerlan downloaded the Al Qaeda magazines, bought the bomb-making materials, learned to make the bombs, and plotted the whole attack.
“Unfortunately and tragically, Dzhokhar was brought into his brother’s passion, and his plans, and that led the way to Bolyston Street,” said Clarke.
The judge ruled that only limited evidence of Tamerlan’s influence will be allowed until the penalty phase of the trial, when Clarke and her team will be able to present that narrative in full.
Following the opening statements was vivid testimony from survivors of the bombing. Sydney Corcoran, of Lowell, was a high school senior in 2013. The explosion severed her femoral artery, nearly causing her to bleed out.
“I could feel my body getting tingly, and I was getting increasingly cold,” she said. “I knew I was dying.”
Corcoran also described how she couldn’t find her parents and believed they had been killed.
“I thought my parents had been violently ripped away from this world, and I was all alone.”
Her parents survived, though her mother lost both her legs.
A similar recollection came from Rebekah Gregory of Houston, who was hospitalized for 56 days, and in that time had 18 surgeries and lost her leg.
“My bones were literally lying next to me on the sidewalk…I thought it was the day I was going to die,” she testified.
Tsarnaev faces 30 charges in the bombing and the shooting of Officer Collier, and could face the death penalty if convicted.