Boston Bombing Trial: Week 1

Last week marked the first week of the Tsarnaev trial. Opening statements proved shocking, in particular, one remark from Judy Clarke, one of Tsarnaev’s lawyers, who told the jury:

“There’s little that occurred the week of April the 15th — the bombings, the murder of Officer Collier, the carjacking, the shootout in Watertown — that we dispute. If the only question was whether or not that was Jahar Tsarnaev in the video that you will see walking down Boylston Street, or if that was Jahar Tsarnaev who dropped the backpack on the ground, or if that was Jahar Tsarnaev in the boat –captured in the boat, it would be very easy for you: It was him.”

Clarke raised the next question we were all asking: “Why a trial?” Clarke went on to explain that in a bifurcated trial, the indictment “is not that simple. It’s 30 counts.” She later posed the question: what could have turned Jahar Tsarnaev into someone who would detonate bombs?

On the following day, witnesses came forward. A father spoke about his eight-year-old son who died and his daughter who lost her leg, while another father spoke about his son whose legs were so badly wounded he required over 60 “zipper-like” stitches.

It was the small details that were so poignant and so devastating. A police officer, Frank Chiola, recalled a young woman named Krystle who was wearing all blue. He stayed with her even after she died. He described her from the waist down as “mutilated.”

Following Chiola was a young man, Jeffrey Bauman, who lost both of his legs. He remembered “[it] was a beautiful day watching all these runners…” and he remembered seeing a man, later identified as Tamerlan Tsarnaev (Tsarnaev’s older brother who was also responsible for setting off the bombs) bump against him. Bauman testified:

“[I] just thought it [the man] was odd, didn’t really pay any more attention to him…just focusing on Erin [his girlfriend and now wife] at that point…looked back and saw a bag there unattended…I just thought it was weird but you’re at the marathon, probably just forgot it or something…two seconds later, heard pops on the ground…was on the ground could see the sky…it smelled like Fourth of July.”

He described his legs as “pure carnage.”

The jurors were shown graphic images of the 2013 attacks and the witnesses were asked to circle themselves or their family members. The images were just as crushing as their descriptions. It makes you wonder how Tsarnaev’s defense team will be able to convince jurors, or anyone, to feel sympathy or anything other than shock and horror at the enormity of the crimes. Can they convince the public and jurors that he has any humanity left?

Only time will tell. As each witness steps forward, more emotions will rise as they did last week when jurors, and those watching both inside the courtroom and in the overflow courtrooms, were seen quietly wiping tears from their eyes.

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March 12, 2015