BOSTON — It’s not just that Dzhokhar “Jahar” Tsarnaev played a role in the deaths of four people and devastating injuries to scores more. It’s how he did it — in a way that each victim felt pain and terror, giving them time to suffer and shudder, but not to say goodbye.
That was federal prosecutor Nadine Pellegrini’s argument on the first day in the sentencing phase for Tsarnaev, who less than two weeks ago was convicted on all 30 counts tied to the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings and bloody manhunt that followed.
“Jahar Tsarnaev was and is unrepentant, uncaring and untouched by the havoc and sorrow that he has created,” Pellegrini said in a Boston court on Tuesday. “He was willing to cross every line for glory and reward.”
The prosecutor was trying to convince the jury — the same group who convicted Tsarnaev — to sentence Tsarnaev to death.
To help paint a picture for them, Pellegrini showed a montage of the four people that Tsarnaev (and his brother Tamerlan, who died in a shootout with police) killed: Lingzi Lu, Krystle Campbell, Martin RIchard and Sean Collier.
“All had rich and fulfilling lives; now these beautiful faces are memories,” the prosecutor said. “They are symbols of loss.”
But their images weren’t the only ones that the jury saw Tuesday before she started calling witnesses to support her point. Another was of Tsarnaev himself taken in a holding cell, showing him facing a camera with his middle finger raised.
Not only isn’t he remorseful, but he’s been defiant — and, in Pellegrini’s opinion, deserving of a death penalty rather than life in prison.
Her presentation was followed by victims’ impact statements starting with Celeste Corcoran, who was waiting for her sister by the marathon finish line when the bombs went off within 12 seconds of one another.
Corcoran said on the stand, “I, unfortunately, remember every single detail” — from being thrown into the air, to choking on thick black smoke, to hearing “blood-curdling screams,” to the horrific carnage everywhere she looked.
“I remember looking around and seeing blood everywhere,” testified Corcoran, who had parts of both her legs amputated after the attack . “I remember thinking … ‘No, this has to stop, this couldn’t be real.’ ”
After the prosecution witnesses wrap up, the defense will get a chance to present its case to keep their client alive. Tsarnaev’s lawyers called four witnesses during the recent trial, compared to 92 by the prosecution, but it’s not known what their strategy will be in this phase of the trial.
Even if the jury ends up sentencing Tsarnaev to death after all this, his case (or his chances for a reprieve) won’t be over. Most inmates on federal death row remain in that status for at least a decade, with 19 of them currently waiting on appeals.
Pellegrini, the federal prosecutor, argued Tuesday that Tsarnaev deserves only the sternest sentence imaginable.
“Jahar Tsarnaev was determined and destined to be America’s worst nightmare,” Pellegrini said of the convict’s thinking before, during and after the mayhem, as seen in the flippant holding cell photo. “His heart was full of rage.”