Penalty Phase of Tsarnaev Trial Begins

Boston. April 21, 2015. Protestors opposing the death penalty stand outside the John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse with sings and banners on the opening day of the sentencing trial of Dzokhar Tsarnaev, who was found guilty of all 30 charges for his role in the 2013 Boston Marathon which resulted in death of four, including a police officer, and injured many others. (Photo by: Haiyun Jiang/BU News Service)
Boston. April 21, 2015. Protestors opposing the death penalty stand outside Moakley Courthouse on the first day of the sentencing trial of convicted marathon bomber Dzokhar Tsarnaev (Photo by: Haiyun Jiang/BU News Service)

By Haiyun Jiang
BU News Service

The penalty phase of the trial against convicted marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev began today, just one day after the Boston Marathon and a week after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing anniversary.

“This is unbearable and indescribable murder,” said Assistant US Attorney Nadine Pellegrini as she addressed the jury in the prosecution’s opening statements. Pellegrini went on to exhibit photos of the bombing victims and describe the lives they could have lived were it not for Tsarnaev.

“They’re all beautiful and now they’re all gone. Tsarnaev took them away in a cruel way,” Pellegrini said. She said that “nothing will explain his cruelty,” not even his own character. Pellegrini argued against the Tsarnaev defense’s attempts to point to Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Dzhokhar’s older brother who died in the manhunt that followed the 2013 bombings, as the mastermind behind the attacks.

17 of the 30 counts of which Tsarnaev was convicted carry the death penalty. In the second phase of the trial, the jury is tasked with deciding whether Tsarnaev should be sentenced to death or to life in prison without the possibility of parole. This phase will involve impact evidence from victims of the bombings, which will show the jury the harm and loss caused by the attacks. Judge George O’Toole warned the jury not to be emotional, but to be fair and impartial.

Celeste Corcoran, who lost both her legs in the bombing, testified that she remained conscious in the immediate aftermath of the explosion and suffered excruciating pain. Her daughter Sydney was also badly injured by shrapnel that got embedded into her body from the pressure cooker bombs.

“The whole world exploded. I was thrown up in the air…chocking and completely confused in deadly silence,” said Corcoran at the witness stand. “My husband touched my hair and said ‘this is a terrorist attack bomb.’”

Over the next two hours, prosecutors called four other witnesses, including the family of Krystle Campbell, who died after the first bomb went off. “If I had a bad day, I could call her as someone I can always talk to,” said William Campbell Jr., Krystle’s older brother. “I am not able to make that phone call anymore.”

William Campbell Sr., Krystle’s father, remembered his daughter as hardworking and beautiful, and said that she was “every father’s dream.”

“I called her princess…that’s what she is,” said Campbell, who had to stop speaking several times during his testimony. As family members spoke and recalled their memories of the victims, some of the jurors wept.

The penalty phase will resume tomorrow morning and is expected to last for about four weeks.

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