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Closing arguments in Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's murder trial for 2013 Boston Marathon bombing began this morning. Prosecutors reviewed the evidence and told jurors Tsarnaev and his brother targeted "civilians, men, woman and children, because he wanted to make a point. He wanted to terrorize this country. He wanted to punish America for what it was doing to his people."
Tsarnaev has been charged with 30 counts in the bombing that killed 3 and injured over 260 others, and could face the death penalty if he is convicted as expected.
While closing arguments began with the prosecution today, Tsarnaev's defense team employed an interesting strategy in their opening statements last month, when defense lawyer Judy Clarke admitted Tsarnaev's culpability in the bombing: "It was him."
With little hope of their client's exoneration in the face of the overwhelming physical evidence against him, defense attorneys instead focused their efforts on the sentencing phase. The hope is that by admitting to the crime and attempting to assign the majority of the blame to Dzhokhar's brother Tamerlan, the jury will not sentence Tsarnaev to death.
Judge George A. O'Toole Jr. of the Federal District Court in Massachusetts already issued instructions to the jury on how to interpret the law in the case. After closing arguments, the jury will deliberate until they have reached a verdict.
This, however, is just the guilt phase of Tsarnaev's capital case. And with a guilty verdict all but assured, jurors will likely move on to the sentencing phase next. Attorneys from both sides will then make arguments and produce evidence as to whether or not Tsarnaev deserves the death penalty.
In federal capital punishment cases, the jury must vote unanimously for the death penalty; if one juror votes against, Tsarnaev will likely face life in prison instead.