Listen to the story.
Marco Werman: I’m Marco Werman and you’re listening to The World. Convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been sentenced to death. That was the verdict today from the 12 jurors in the case. Those jurors deliberated for just over 14 hours over three days to reach their decision. They had convicted Tsarnaev last month on all 30 charges against him, and then they had to decide the punishment: the death penalty or life in prison without parole. And, as I said, the verdict was death. I’m joined now by Susan Zalkind, journalist with Boston Magazine. Susan, you were in the courthouse, what was the scene as the verdict was read today?
Susan Zalkind: The scene was very somber. We saw the defense very somber, as the aggravating factors and (?) of the death penalty (?) down. But you know, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 21-year-old, had a blank stare on his face the entire time, which makes you wonder if this blank stare was read as a lack of remorse and may have cost him his life.
Werman: Yeah, that blank stare has kind of been there the whole trial, hasn’t it? Why is that? Did his lawyer not coach him?
Zalkind: You know, it’s likely his lawyers did coach him. I can’t imagine they didn’t tell him throughout this trial not to cut his hair, to maybe wear less dark colors--he wore very somber, black colors. You know, Tsarnaev--one of the most difficult parts of this case for the defense and the greatest mystery of him is he’s truly an enigma. What was going through his mind, why he actually set off those bombs remains one of the biggest questions in this case, and I think it’s what the jury eventually read as a lack of remorse, the not caring. He didn’t cry or show any emotion throughout the horrific testimony these past few months, and then he didn’t cry or show any emotion when his own death sentence was handed down today.
Werman: How did the courtroom react?
Zalkind: You know, I was looking at the (?), so I had a direct view of Tsarnaev’s face. But there was people pouring out of the courtroom, some of them in cheers, some of them holding each other. I heard reports from other reporters that some of the jurors burst into cheers. And again, there’s a lot of emotion here, but none of it coming from Dzokhar Tsarnaev.
Werman: People who were at the courthouse who were opposed to the death penalty, did you speak with any of them?
Zalkind: There’s been a solid group of people standing outside of the courthouse, silent voices against the death penalty. You know, it’s a huge issue here in Massachusetts where we don’t have the death penalty, but this is a federal case.
Werman: Right. What is the next step then for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev? Presumably there is an appeals process.
Zalkind: Oh, I can only imagine, yes. I mean, we aren’t sure exactly what the defense attorneys are going to appeal, but I think most legal experts will say that this is an extremely talented legal crew and that they will likely be appealing this case for decades to come. This is Judy Clark, she’s a famed attorney, she’s known for going all around the nation and saving defendants lives. This is her first big loss, this is the first time any of her clients have gotten death. So, we can only imagine she’s going to be working very hard to appeal this case.
Werman: Any sense right now--I know it’s very early--but any sense why Judy Clark was unable to get Dzhokhar Tsarnaev life in prison?
Zalkind: You know, I was looking at this--this is really the toughest case of her life. You know, most of the time she strikes a plea deal before the case even goes to trial--Jared Loughner, the Unabomber--where she makes an agreement with the government to give her client life in prison in exchange for saving their life. She wasn’t able to do that with Tsarnaev. Another case that she had where she didn’t have a plea deal, Susan Smith, this is the 1994 South Carolina woman who murdered her two sons in a car by drowning them. She did the same tactic in defending Tsarnaev as she did in that case, her and David Bruck, which was to dig deep into their family history of who they were. Now, there’s a big difference between Susan Smith and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. With Susan Smith, you had a woman whose father killed himself when she was six, whose stepfather took the stand and admitted that he’d been molesting her for years. You had some really dramatic and hair-raising backstory from her. With Tsarnaev, you have an immigrant family, poverty, a crazy family, a dominating older brother. But these are things that a lot of people can relate to. So, the big question and the point that the prosecution made is that there are a lot of people who have an imperfect upbringing, but they don’t go and bomb cities. I think that’s what Judy Clark had a lot of trouble conveying, because the whole argument--the main argument--was that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was the instigator, he was dominating. But it’s hard to testify to something that happened behind closed doors. We don’t really know the extent of their relationship, and we still don’t. They weren’t able to really shed light on that.
Werman: You’re a Bostonian, Susan. What is your sense of this moment after covering the case and the trial for, well, two years?
Zalkind: Yeah, no, it’s interesting; I’m a Bostonian--I’m actually from Cambridge, so a few blocks away from the Tsarnaevs, neighbors and people who know them. I run into them all the time. It’s heartbreaking. I was at a restaurant the other day with a family who knew Dzhokhar fairly well, their kids went to school with them, and they were actually saying, “We hope he gets death out of sympathy. It’d probably be better than whatever life he’d have at this ADX supermax in Colorado, where he’d be sent for the rest of his life. So, it’s a very difficult day, it’s a very painful day. I think a lot of people are torn about it.
Werman: Journalist Susan Zalkind speaking with me from the federal courthouse in downtown Boston. Thank you very much.
Zalkind: Thank you for having me.
Werman: By the way, after the verdict today, prosecutors in the Tsarnaev case spoke to reporters outside the courthouse in Boston. Here’s some of what US attorney Carmen Ortiz had to say.
[Excerpt from speech by US attorney Carmen Ortiz]
Werman: Let’s take a moment to remember April 15th, 2013, the day of the marathon and the bombings.
[Excerpt from sounds of the day of the Boston Marathon bombings]
Werman: Sounds from the day of the Boston Marathon bombings two years ago. Again, today the jury in Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s trial sentenced him to death for his role in that horrible attack.