Defense reveals details about Tsarnaev’s childhood

Credit: Jane Rosenberg

BOSTON, Mass. (WPRI) — The penalty phase for convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev continued on Wednesday — as members of his defense team showed photos from his childhood to the jury.

Witnesses, including Tsarnaev’s third-grade teacher, described him as a quiet and sweet child.

From the beginning, the defense has maintained that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was a religious extremist who was the mastermind behind the marathon attack and death of MIT officer Sean Collier. The defense has been consistently arguing that Dzhokhar was corrupted by his brother.

But on Wednesday, testimony shifted away from Tamerlan — and instead focused on when the family moved to the U.S. from Russia. Dzhokhar was 9-years-old.

According to his former teacher, he was just learning English when he arrived and often struggled with the language barrier — but she told the jury he never gave up.

In the prosecution’s cross examination, the teacher admitted that Tsarnaev was smart and disciplined — a point which contradicted the defense’s argument that he was the passive brother.

The jury was also shown photos of the brothers in Cambridge. According to their landlord’s son, Sam Lipson, Dzhokhar was a good kid.

Lipson, who met the defendant almost a decade ago, also testified that he did not have much contact with him as grew up. He said he was unaware that Tsarnaev was dealing drugs at while in college.

Tsarnaev, 21, was convicted of all 30 federal charges against him less than one month ago for his role in the bombings that were set off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon in April of 2013. The blasts killed three people and injured more than 260 others.

Seventeen of Tsarnaev’s charges carry the possibility of the death penalty.

On Tuesday, testimony in the case turned to Tamerlan’s wife, Rhode Island native Katherine Russell. A computer expert testified that a computer belonging to Russell contained internet searches about the possible rewards given to a dying martyr’s wife.

Prosecutors rested their case last week, after showing the jury a video of 8-year-old Martin Richard lying on a sidewalk after the blasts, where officials say he bled out

The defense is asking the jury to sentence Tsarnaev to life in prison, while prosecutors say he deserves to be put to death.

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