On April 27, 2015 the defense team of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev started their plea to grant the young man his life, albeit behind bars. Their quest to convince the 12 people jury is a difficult one as the 21 year old has already been found guilty of all 30 charges that were brought against him by his prosecutors.
Although an accomplice in the placing of bombs that took the life of three and severely injured more than 200 people during the infamous 2013 Boston Marathon, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is represented by his defense team as a misguided youth, heavily influenced by his radicalized brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
In doing so, the defense team has set up the entire decorum to the slightest detail in trying to convey the image of a youth in need of protection. Judy Clarke and Miriam Conrad motherly flank Dzhokhar on one side, while David Bruck holds his other. In between the three of them, the accused looks as if in the bosom of a loving family.
And it is the fatherly figure who, during the opening statements on Monday stated that: „There is no point in trying to hurt him as he hurt because it can’t be done”, according to Associated Press.
The defense lawyers are playing on just one card. Not that of innocence, but that of a brother whose belief in the radical Islamist doctrine and the advantage of age heavily influenced the then 19 year old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Tamerlan is under the spotlight as the mastermind behind the bombings and his previous criminal record, as well as the fact that he had dropped out of school to become a boxer are pointing in the direction of his aggressive nature which rendered him unable to adapt to the life of and US citizen.
In shifting the attention from Dzhokhar to Tamerlan the defense team focused on Tamerlan’s wife, an American citizen from Rhode Island, Mrs. Katherine Russell. It was stated that after her marriage and thus under the influence of her husband, she showed signs of becoming a supporter and sympathizer of her late husband’s views.
In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon events, one of Katherine’s friends called to ask whether she was safe. She received a reply answering that everything was alright and that many more people died in Syria and they were innocent. This statement coupled with the searches that have been found on Katherine’s personal computer underpinned the idea that it was Tamerlan who influenced her as well. The browsing history revealed such queries as what are the rewards for a martyr’s spouse, as well as the rewards for the wife of a mujahedeen.
It is nonetheless a controversial and daring attempt coming from Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s defense team in light of Mr. Amato DeLuca’s declarations. Mr. DeLuca is the attorney for Russell and her family. He stated that neither Katherine, nor her family suspected anything about her husband until the bombings happened on April 15, 2013.
Throughout, Dzhokhar was not called on the bar to make any kind of statement. Concerns have been raised as to whether such a move would backfire or not. And yet again, it might all have to do with the imagery of protecting a young misguided youth.
In his opening statement, attorney David Bruck underlined that Dzhokhar was a good kid, led off track by his radicalized brother. This comes in stark contrast to the portrait painted by the prosecution not long ago: that of a cold-blooded murder, unrepentant for his crimes.
The question if the defense team will be able to grant Dzhokhar Tsarnaev a life sentence as opposed to the death penalty still remains opened.
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