A box of torn clothing items, blood-stained running shoes, and a child-sized black belt may have been the final nail in the coffin for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. On Monday, the prosecution in the case of suspected Boston Marathon bomber rested its case, painting a gruesome and emotionally charged picture that has nearly made it impossible for Tsarnaev's lawyers to erase from the minds of the jurors, many of whom openly wept over the presented evidence from murdered 8-year-old Martin Richard. No matter how talented the defense team may be, all of their efforts will likely just not be good enough.
On the final morning of the prosecution's case against 21-year-old Tsarnaev, the city of Boston's chief medical examiner, Dr. Henry Nields, used otherwise innocuous items out of a cardboard evidence box to seemingly seal the young man's fate. Richard's long sleeved green T-shirt with a gash in one side, a similarly torn jacket and undershirt, and a pair of black and blue running shoes would have likely been enough to push the jury over the edge into guilty verdict territory, but Nields wasn't finished. Pulling a child-sized belt from the box, he described in detail how someone had used it as a tourniquet to stem the bleeding from the boy's nearly-severed arm, reported one Los Angeles Times reporter on Monday.
Autopsy photos were also shown, leaving the appalled jurors visibly shaken. Tsarnaev's attorneys were hoping this week to construct their own image of their client as a young, naive boy — but it seems the prosecution got there first.
"It would be difficult to say the precise location due to the size of the openings in the abdomen," said Nields, describing Richard's fatal wounds to the jury on Monday, explaining the the damaging shrapnel would have "severed his spinal cord and ... abdominal aorta."
CNN reported that the boy's family, who sat silently in the courtroom, lowered their heads and closed their eyes as photos of the injury were displayed to a shocked jury. Richard's father Bill also testified in horrific detail to the extent of his son's injuries that day, which were like something straight out of a battlefield documentary. Breathing heavily, Bill Richard told jurors, "I just knew from what I saw [in that moment] that there was no chance [for him to survive]."
In a similar emotional display, Reuters reported on Monday afternoon that the prosecution had also called medical examiner Katherine Lindstrom to the stand, asking her to discuss the autopsy of Chinese exchange student Lingzi Lu, 23. Lu, who had been standing near the finish line, was killed by the same blast after shrapnel from the pressure cooker bomb "punched through" her legs, causing the young woman to bleed out in minutes.
"Her injuries were caused by debris hitting her body and going through her body," said Lindstrom on Monday. "They would have been very painful."
The Associated Press reported that the defense has long maintained that it will not seek acquittal, but will try instead to keep the death penalty off the table. On Monday, the team called its first witness, FBI field photographer Michelle Gamble, to the stand, hoping that she might help them build a different image of their client's movements that day. Tsarnaev's attorneys used Gamble's multiple photographs to try and prove that the then-19-year-old had not deliberately targeted children.
Jurors, of course, are expected to be impartial in such settings — by as early as the end of this week, the panel of 10 women and eight men will be asked to consider the 30 separate counts against Tsarnaev (for which 17 carry a possible capital punishment sentence) and come to a conclusion on his guilt. If he is convicted of all 30 counts, a second phase of the trial will open, reported CNN on Monday.
Of course, it will be hard for them to forget the little boy whose only wish was for people to "stop hurting each other," and the photos of the wounds that took his life, no matter what the court says.
Images: Getty Images (1); Jesse Grossi/Twitter