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Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev sentenced to death

  1. A jury on Friday sentenced Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the two men behind the Boston Marathon bombing, to death after 14 hours of deliberations.
  2. The same jury previously found Tsarnaev guilty of 30 charges linked to the April 2013 bombing, which killed three people and injured more than 260 others.
  3. The guilty verdict was long expected due to overwhelming evidence, including video footage, eyewitnesses, and a letter Tsarnaev wrote himself. At the beginning of the trial, Tsarnaev's attorney, Judy Clarke, declared, "It was him." The case, instead, largely came down to whether Tsarnaev should get the death penalty.
  4. The decision may be appealed to higher courts, as is typical of death penalty cases.

The trial was always about the death penalty

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

A TV near the site of the Boston Marathon bombing displays Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's picture.

Mario Tama/Getty Images

Federal prosecutors sought 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 took place in two phases. The first phase decided whether Dzhokhar was guilty. The second decided 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."