Nun Helen Prejean Testifies In Boston Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's Trial & Her Remarks May Save Him From Execution

A nun and well-known anti-death penalty advocate potentially saved Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's life on Monday. Sister Helen Prejean testified in Tsarnaev's trial for the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, claiming he regretted the attacks that killed three and injured more than 260 people. "He said it emphatically. He said, 'No one deserves to suffer like they did,'" Prejean testified. "I had every reason to believe that he was taking it in and was genuinely sorry for what he did. When he said what he did... I felt it."

The last of 40 witnesses called to the stand by the defense, Prejean was allowed to testify despite the prosecution's attempts to keep her out of the trial. Prejean, a Roman Catholic nun, is known for her book and the film adaptation, Dead Man Walking, about the moral issues surrounding the death penalty. She met with Tsarnaev five times, beginning in March.

"I'm not sure he'd ever met a nun before, but he was very open and receptive. It was pleasant," said said. According to her testimony, the two talked about religion, including the differences between Islam and Catholicism, his crimes, and his victims, during their visits in jail. She said she detected pain in Tsarnaev's voice as they chatted.

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Prejean said she visited Tsarnaev "for the same reason I visit with other people who have done really terrible crimes — just to accompany them and be with them." When cross-examined by prosecutors, she said she wasn't paid by Tsarnaev's defense team and repeated that she absolutely believed Tsarnaev is "sincerely remorseful." Since Tsarnaev never testified himself, Prejean's comments are the closest the jury will come to hearing from the defendant.

This final testimony was the first time the public heard anything about Tsarnaev's thoughts on the bombing and besides crying during his aunt's testimony, he held a blank expression throughout the trial. Since Tsarnaev was found guilty for all 30 counts against him in April, his defense team has focused on trying to get him life in jail as opposed to the death penalty, and by speaking about his alleged remorse, Prejean may have done just that. The defense rested after the nun's testimony, and after hearing closing arguments Wednesday, the jury will deliberate. The jury may still decide to grant Tsarnaev the death penalty, but Prejean's testimony gave him a fighting chance for life in jail.

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