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.”
The testimony today was painful and heartbreaking. Here are some sketches of the witnesses.
The Supreme Court is now in that final stretch of the October 2013 Term when it remains, after all cases have been argued, to issue opinions before recessing at the end of June. Today the Court announced its decisions in four cases, two of which I sketched below.
Justice Kennedy delivered the opinion in Hall v. Florida, ruling that an IQ score one point above the threshold should not be enough to make someone eligible for the death penalty.
And in a case where the Secret Service was sued for moving protesters opposed to President Bush further away than another group supporting the president the Court sided with the Secret Service. Justice Ginsburg had the opinion in Wood v. Moss.
Yesterday, April 15th, the Supreme Court appropriately delivered two tax related opinions. Today, as they were about to hear arguments on a Louisiana law that permits the death penalty in cases of child rape, the Court announced their decision approving the use of lethal injection to administer capital punishment.
The sketch shows attorney Jeffrey Fisher arguing today for the petitioner in Kennedy v. Louisiana. Fisher also appeared before the Supreme Court earlier this term representing the victims of the Exxon Valdez oil spill; a sketch of that argument can be found here.
Washington Post story on the Louisiana case is here.
NYT story on Lethal Injection here.