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Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is guilty of Boston Marathon bombing, jury rules

Lane Turner/Boston Globe via Getty Images
  1. A jury found Dzhokhar Tsarnaev guilty of all 30 charges stemming from the Boston Marathon bombing, BuzzFeed's Mike Hayes reported.
  2. The next phase of the trial will decide Tsarnaev's sentence: death or life in prison.
  3. This verdict was long expected due to the overwhelming evidence of Tsarnaev's guilt, including video evidence, eyewitnesses, and a letter Tsarnaev wrote himself. At the beginning of the trial, Tsarnaev's attorney, Judy Clarke, declared, "It was him."
  4. The trial largely focused on whether Tsarnaev should get the death penalty or life in prison. Clarke has made a career out of preventing executions of some of the most reviled criminals, including the Unabomber and Jared Loughner, who killed six people when he attempted to assassinate former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) in 2011.

How the Tsarnaev brothers allegedly carried out the Boston Marathon bombing

Boston Marathon bombing

First responders at the site of the Boston Marathon bombing. (John Tlumacki/Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, now 21, allegedly helped his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, plant and detonate two bombs at the Boston Marathon finish line on April 15, 2013, killing three people and injuring more than 260 others. The bombs were improvised explosive devices with pressure cookers and explosive powder from fireworks, loaded with shrapnel that tore through nearby victims' limbs.

It's difficult to gauge what would inspire such a terrible act, but court documents indicate the Tsarnaev brothers allegedly acted on a twisted, radical interpretation of Islam and opposition to the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

After the bombing, as police closed in, the brothers allegedly killed an MIT security officer; they also carjacked, kidnapped, and robbed another man, according to court filings reported by the Boston Globe. Police and the Tsarnaev brothers first faced off in Watertown, Massachusetts, where the brothers fired gunshots and tossed homemade bombs at police officers. Tamerlan was fatally wounded during the confrontation, when he was shot by police and, according to authorities, run over by Dzhokhar as the younger brother drove away in a stolen SUV.

Dzhokhar was later trapped and arrested while hiding in a boat in a Watertown driveway. ABC News reported he received multiple life-threatening injuries, including a gunshot to the face.

The case against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is straightforward, as prosecutors brought an overwhelming amount of evidence against the 21-year-old.

Surveillance footage at the Boston Marathon directly linked the brothers to the bombing, according to the Washington Post. The man the Tsarnaevs carjacked, who managed to escape, also told authorities that the brothers admitted to the bombing and planned to go to New York and detonate additional bombs, indicating that the attack on the Boston Marathon was only the start of a much bigger scheme.

Dzhokhar's capture in the boat was widely televised and photographed. It's also in the boat that authorities say he wrote an incriminating note — "Stop killing our innocent people and we will stop" — in an apparent allusion to the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He also allegedly admitted to the bombing during questioning without a lawyer present, authorities claimed in court documents.

The defense seems acutely aware of the evidence against Tsarnaev. Judy Clarke, Tsarnaev's attorney, opened the case by stating, "It was him."

The trial was always about the death penalty

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

Mario Tama/Getty Images

A TV near the site of the Boston Marathon bombing displays Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's picture. (Mario Tama/Getty Images News)

Federal prosecutors are reportedly seeking the death sentence for Tsarnaev, making his trial a rare example of a federal death penalty case. The death penalty is banned in Massachusetts, but Tsarnaev's case has fallen under federal jurisdiction, which allows capital punishment.

US Attorney General Eric Holder, who personally opposes the death penalty, in 2014 nonetheless authorized prosecutors to pursue capital punishment, the New York Times reported. US Attorney Carmen Ortiz argued in court filings that the death penalty was justified because, among several reasons, Dzhokhar had used a weapon of mass destruction — the bomb at the Boston marathon — and shown no remorse for his actions.

The trial is taking place in two phases. The first phase decided whether Dzhokhar is guilty. The second, which will begin now that he's been deemed guilty, will decide his sentence. Those decisions could be appealed to higher courts, as is particularly common with death penalty cases.

Clarke, Tsarnaev's attorney, has made a career out of preventing executions of high-profile criminals. Throughout the trial, she characterized Tsarnaev, who was 19 at the time of the bombing and held no criminal record, as manipulated into the attack by his older brother — a strategy focused on reducing his sentence.

"It matters because we are entitled to know the full picture," Clarke said in her closing comments, according to the Times. "We don't deny that Jahar fully participated in the events," she said, using Dzhokhar's nickname, "but if not for Tamerlan, it would not have happened."

Further reading: The Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Boston Marathon bombing trial, explained.

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