Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the college student who had been accused in the Boston Marathon bombings that shook the city and the country in April 2013, was found guilty on all counts by a federal jury Wednesday. His conviction, nearly two years after the blasts that killed three people and injured more than 260 others, as well as in the death of an MIT security officer, makes him eligible for the death penalty, though his lawyers will instead try to get him sentenced to life in prison.
A panel of 12 jurors in Boston reached the verdict after weeks of testimony from some 90 witnesses and 11 hours of deliberations spread over two days. Tsarnaev, now 21, had been charged with conspiring and carrying out the attack alongside his older brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev that included setting off two pressure-cooker explosives near the finish line of the marathon on April 15, 2013. Krystle Campbell, Martin Richard and Lu Lingzi died after the blasts on Boylston Street.
The attacks prompted a massive manhunt around the city for the suspects. In the days after the blasts, the brothers killed MIT security officer Sean Collier; Tamerlan Tsarnaev died following a shootout with police officers. The search ended on Friday, April 19, when Dzhokhar was found hiding in a boat in Watertown.
Last month, defense attorney Judy Clarke told jurors in her opening statement that “it was him.” With that acknowledgment, Clarke aimed not to dispute the case against her client, but rather to argue what led him to take part. Prosecutors said Dzhokhar was equal to Tamerlan, 26, in carrying out the attack, but Clarke said Tsarnaev was operating under the guise of his older brother.
Wednesday’s guilty verdict completes the first stage of the trial. A second phase, involving the same jury, will decide whether Dzhokhar Tsarnaev receives life in prison or the death penalty.
Victims of the attack expressed relief after Wednesday’s announcement.
“Today’s verdict will never replace the lives that were lost and so dramatically changed, but it is a relief, and one step closer to closure,” Jeff Bauman, who lost both legs in the bombing, said in a statement posted on Facebook.
Heather Abbott, who lost her left leg, released a statement on Facebook via her foundation. “Thanks to everyone who reached out today and have continued to support me and the other Bombing victims and their families over the last 2 years,” she wrote. “Nothing can ever replace the lives that were lost or changed forever, but at least there is some relief in knowing that justice is served and responsibility will be taken.”
Collier’s family also released a statement about the verdict. “Sean Collier gave his life doing what he was born to do,” the family said. “While today’s verdict can never bring Sean back, we are thankful that Dzhokar Tsarnaev will be held accountable for the evil that he brought to so many families,” the statement continued. “The strength and bond that everyone has shown during these last two years proves that if these terrorists thought that they would somehow strike fear in the hearts of people, they monumentally failed. We know Sean would be very proud of that.”
Boston Mayor Martin Walsh expressed hope for a “swift sentencing process,” adding in an official statement, “the incidents of those days have forever left a mark on our City.” Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker said in a statement that he applauded the verdict: “I hope this brings some degree of closure to those individuals and their families whose lives were changed forever on that horrific day.”
In a midafternoon news conference, survivor Karen Brassard expressed relief at the verdict, but dismissed questions about a feeling of closure. “We’re all aware that this is not a process that’s going to be over anytime soon. It’s’ going to take many years to get through this.” She called Wednesday’s verdict “one more piece to the puzzle being done.”
Next Wednesday, on the second anniversary of the attack, Walsh will mark the city’s new tradition of One Boston Day, which will revolve around encouraging random acts of kindness and community support. He will help raise banners on Boylston Street to honor the victims and survivors of the blasts, then visit several sites around Boston to see how neighborhoods are marking the day.
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