Opening Statements Will Likely Portray 2 Tsarnaevs

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev: active participant or easily influenced younger brother?
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 4, 2015 9:00 AM CST
Opening Statements Will Likely Portray 2 Tsarnaevs
This undated file photo released April 19, 2013, by the FBI shows Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Opening statements are scheduled today in Tsarnaev's federal death penalty trial.   (Uncredited)

Two dramatically different portraits of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are expected to emerge when prosecutors and Tsarnaev's lawyers give their opening statements today at his federal death penalty trial. Was he a submissive, adoring younger brother who only followed directions given by his older, radicalized brother? Or was he a willing, active participant in the attacks? Tsarnaev's lawyers have made it clear they will try to show that at the time of the bombings, Tsarnaev, then 19, looked up to his older brother, Tamerlan, 26, and was heavily influenced by him; they plan to portray Tamerlan—who died following a shootout with police days after the bombings—as the mastermind of the attack. But prosecutors say Dzhokhar was an equal participant who acted of his own free will.

Tsarnaev faces 30 charges in the bombings and the fatal shooting days later of a police officer from MIT; 17 of the charges carry the possibility of the death penalty. A jury of 10 women and eight men were chosen yesterday to hear the case, which is to be held in US District Court in Boston under extremely tight security. The trial, which is expected to last three to four months, will be split into two phases: one phase to decide guilt and the other to decide punishment. If Tsarnaev is convicted, the same jury will decide whether he's sentenced to life in prison or death. Assistant US Attorney William Weinreb will lay out the prosecution's case; attorney Judy Clarke, a well-known death penalty opponent who has represented "Unabomber" Ted Kaczynski and Jared Loughner, will deliver the opening statement for the defense. (More Boston Marathon bombing stories.)

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