A first for this trial, we heard Tsarnaev laugh. While waiting for jurors to enter the courtroom to be dismissed for the day Tsarnaev, chatting with his lawyers as he usually does, let out a guffaw, then quickly checked himself.
Yesterday was a strange day, eighty degrees in the morning, fifty-five by afternoon. It was also the last day of testimony in the death penalty case against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.The defense called as their final witness Sister Helen Prejean of “Dead Man Walking” fame. She testified about several meetings with Tsarnaev during which he once said, “No one deserves to suffer like they did.” Whether that was an expression of remorse, or merely regret is not clear.
Thursday was a short day at the Tsarnaev trial last week as both sides met with the judge in chambers to discuss whether and to what extent Sister Helen Prejean will be allowed to testify. For much of the time nothing happened in the courtroom, though many tweets were read and sent. The previous day’s witness was brought back to the stand to complete his testimony, but that’s all.
I profited of the free time to ride a Hubway bike to the North End where I had an espresso and Italian ice and did the little sketch below.
There was a short delay this morning as the court set up a video conference call so that a Tsarnaev relative could testify from Kazakhstan. The government wanted the judge to tell the jury that the oath taken by the witness was meaningless since there would be no way to pursue perjury charges in Kazakhstan. Judge O’Toole declined for now.
Not a lot happening at the Boston Marathon bombing trial today. We heard from the roommate of Tamerlan’s future wife, a couple of friends of Dzhokhar’s, the owner of a Russian bookstore, a Russian psychiatrist who treated Tsarnaev’s father, a wrestling coach and a Princeton professor who is an expert in all things Chechen.
The humanity of victims caring for each other in the middle of the bombing mayhem contrasted with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s complete disregard and seeming lack of compassion as he just sat there. The last witness to testify yesterday as the government concluded its death penalty case was Steven Woolfenden. Steve was in front of the Forum restaurant with his son Leo in a stroller when the second bomb went off. They were right next to the Richard family as they tried to move away from the first bomb blast. Tsarnaev brushed past Woolfenden after he dropped his bomb and hurried away.
After the blast, Woolfenden, his leg blown off and his son taken to an ambulance, saw Denise Richard bent over her dying son Martin’s eviscerated body. He put a hand on her shoulder. She turned and asked him if he was okay.
More heartbreaking testimony today, from the family of MIT officer Sean Collier and Lingzi Lu’s aunt. The jury also heard from two more victims who suffered serious injuries. One, a ballroom dancer who lost a leg, glared at Tsarnaev as she left the witness stand.
The government also introduced into evidence the video still of Tsarnaev flipping the bird that was shown to the jury during opening statement. That led to the defense getting in the entire video of Tsarnaev in the courthouse holding cell. It shows the defendant primping his hair and mugging for the camera as he first flashes two fingers in a Vee and then the now infamous single digit.
I remember thinking that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev appeared very cocky at his arraignment back in July, 2013. Well, that impression was confirmed today when the prosecution in its opening displayed a photo of Tsarnaev giving the finger to the camera in his holding cell at the courthouse the day of his arraignment.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Nadine Pellegrini displayed the photo of Tsarnaev along side smiling photos of his five dead victims. “This is Dzhokhar Tsarnaev,” she told the jury, “unconcerned, unrepentant and unchanged. Without remorse, he remains untouched by the grief and the loss he caused.”