U.S. First Circuit - The FindLaw 1st Circuit Court of Appeals News and Information Blog

Boston Marathon Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Guilty on All Counts

The verdict is in: After barely two days of deliberation, a federal jury found Dzhokhar Tsarnaev guilty on all of the 30 counts relating to his involvement in the 2013 bombing at the Boston Marathon, which killed three and injured over 200.

Now that Tsarnaev has been found guilty on at least one of the 17 counts that carry the death penalty, the trial will now proceed to the sentencing phase, where the same jury will decide whether Tsarnaev should be given that sentence.

That Was Fast

The jury began deliberating Tuesday and asked just two questions, reported CNN. It wanted to know "whether a conspiracy can pertain to either a sequence of events or a single event" and what the difference was between aiding and abetting.

Judge George O'Toole told the jury only that "[c]onspiracy is an agreement between two people to commit unlawful acts," but it was for the jury to determine the length and scope of the conspiracy. He also told them that aiding and abetting were the same thing.

Eyes on the Sentencing Prize

The guilty verdict is unsurprising. Defense attorneys conceded on day one of opening arguments that Tsarnaev helped plant the bomb. Throughout the trial, however, their theory was that Tsarnaev was merely a sidekick to his older brother, Tamerlan, who they claimed was the mastermind of the bombing plot.

The prosecution didn't think much of that claim. "It's an attempt to sidestep responsibility, not to take responsibility," said prosecutor William Weinreb in a rebuttal to the defense closing arguments.

If Tsarnaev's defense seemed a little thin, that was intentional. Between the beginning of testimony on March 4 and closing arguments April 6, the prosecution called 92 witnesses, but the defense called just four, according to CNN. Where the defense cross-examined prosecution witnesses or examined its own, Tsarnaev's lawyers sought to elicit evidence that Tamerlan, not Dzhokhar, had researched militant websites, looked up bomb-making information, or had his fingerprints recovered from what remained of the impromptu bombs.

The purpose of this strategy was always to focus on sentencing. It was never very likely that Dzhokhar wouldn't be found guilty. O'Toole wouldn't permit defense attorneys to introduce evidence of Dzhokhar's character during the guilt phase, but that didn't stop them from sneaking it in under the guise that Dzhokhar was an impressionable youth following in the footsteps of his charismatic and convincing older brother.

This strategy was designed to get into the jury's head well before the sentencing phase the idea that, even if Dzhokhar participated in the bombing, Tamerlan was ultimately responsible, meaning Dzhokhar shouldn't be given the death penalty. The decision to impose the death penalty must be unanimous, so if the defense can convince just one juror, Dzhokhar's sentence reverts to life in prison.

Some reports say the penalty phase of the trial is set to begin April 13.

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