The Boston Marathon bombing trial enters its most grueling phase on Tuesday as the jury begins deliberation over whether or not to impose the death penalty on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Having maintained noticeably aloof throughout the trial, his disinterested facade cracked when the prosecutor on Tuesday brought forward an image of Tsarnaev flipping off his holding cell's surveillance camera that was captured just months after him and his older brother Tamerlan planned and executed the Boston Marathon bombing in April 2013.
Federal prosecutors unveiled the never-before-seen photo of Tsarnaev flashing the middle finger to the security camera in his federal courtroom holding cell on July 10, 2013 as further case for a death penalty, which his defense team is fighting. Prosecutors placed the disquieting photo of Tsarnaev next to the smiling photos of the four people he killed — Krystle Campbell, 29, Martin Richard, 8 and Lingzi Lu, 23, who died in the bombings, as well as MIT police officer Sean Collier, who Tsarnaev was convicted of killing three days after the horrific incident that shook the city to the core.
As the photo was displayed — to gasps in the court and media overflow rooms — assistant U.S. Attorney Nadine Pellegrini told the jury as the photo was displayed that the 21-year-old was "destined to be America's worst nightmare" and deserved the death penalty. The Los Angeles Times reported that Pellegrini then said, using the photo as testament,
This is Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Unconcerned, unrepentant and unchanged. Without remorse, he remains untouched by the grief and the loss he caused. The United States will ask you to return the just and appropriate sentence for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev of death.
Earlier this month, the jury convicted Tsarnaev of all 30 criminal charges against him. Prosecutors are seeking his execution, but defense attorneys are attempting to cast him as a puppet at the extremist will of Tamerlan — who died in a shootout with the police days after the bombing — and are pursuing a life sentence. The death penalty will only be handed down if the jury unanimously decides for it.
The image was shown a day after 30,000 runners took part in this year's Boston Marathon, in what looked like the prosecution's attempt to paint Tsarnaev as a heartless character to justify the death penalty. Pellegrini told jurors:
[Tsarnaev is] callous and indifferent toward human life. It’s his character that makes the death penalty appropriate and just.
However, many Boston residents oppose the death penalty for Tsarnaev. Some of the victims themselves have appealed to the Justice Department to drop the death penalty, including Bill and Denise Richard, parents of 8-year-old Martin, the bombing's youngest casualty, who asked instead for a life sentence so that the painful ordeal can end for their family.
Image: Getty Images