In Opening Statements, Defense Admits Guilt of Tsarnaev

BOSTON—Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev’s legal team openly admitted the defendant’s guilt in the April 2013 Boston Marathon Bombings during the first day of Tsarnaev’s trial Wednesday.

“It was him,” defense attorney Judy C. Clarke said at the John Joseph Moakley U.S. Courthouse in Boston.

Tsarnaev faces 30 charges from the April 2013 bombing, which killed three and injured over 260, as well as the subsequent manhunt and shooting of MIT Police Officer Sean Collier.

Courthouse of the Tsarnaev Trial
The trial of the alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev began on Wednesday morning at the John Joseph Moakley U.S. Courthouse in South Boston. The trial is expected to last several months as the defense attempts to persuade the jurors to forgo the death penalty.

In opening statements, Clarke, a public defender, painted her client as a victim of older brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s influences in an apparent attempt to sway the jury away from sentencing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death.


The trial currently is in the phase of determining Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s guilt. If he is convicted, because 17 of his charges 30 charges are capital crimes, the jury of twelve will decide whether he will receive a death sentence.

“[Tamerlan] was determined not to be taken alive,” Clarke said of the manhunt and shootout. “Dzhokhar fled.” Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed by a vehicle driven by his younger brother during a shootout in Watertown on April 19.

Sitting between lead defense attorney Miriam Conrad and Clarke and wearing a black blazer over a white dress shirt, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev appeared relaxed, at times conversing with his defenders.

Clarke, who has defended notorious murderers in the past, specializes in saving defendants from the death penalty.

The prosecution, led by assistant U.S. attorney William D. Weinreb, argued in its opening statement that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was just as responsible as his older brother. He said that the two were “partners-in-crime,” planning and carrying out the acts together.

“Even though he and his brother played different roles in the crime, they are equally guilty,” Weinreb said.

The prosecution also repeatedly emphasized that the defendant digested terrorist literature and believed he was acting to retaliate against the United States for deaths of Muslims in the Middle East.

"He did it because he thought it would help secure him a place in paradise,” Weinreb said.

Weinreb was largely restrained, but at times painted a gruesome picture of the carnage the Tsarnaev brothers left in their wake. Weinreb emphasized that the bombs the Tsarnaev brothers placed near the finish line of the marathon were designed to “tear people apart and create a bloody spectacle.”

“The bomb tore large chunks of flesh out of Martin Richard’s body,” he said, referring to the eight-year-old Dorchester boy who died in the bombings. “Martin bled to death on the sidewalk as his mother looked on.”


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