BOSTON –– Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, his face a blank, stood with his head bowed and his hands clasped as the guilty verdicts tolled one after another for what seemed like an eternity: Guilty of using weapons of mass destruction, guilty of bombing a place of public use, guilty of conspiracy and aiding and abetting. Guilty, guilty, guilty: The word was spoken 32 times.
Yes, the jury said, Tsarnaev caused the deaths of Krystle Campbell, Martin Richard, Lingzi Lu and Sean Collier. Yes, it was murder. And so, the word “yes” was spoken 63 times, each time making Tsarnaev eligible for the death penalty.
From start to finish, it took 26 minutes for the jury to announce its verdict in the Boston Marathon bombing trial: Tsarnaev didn’t skate on a single charge. He now stands guilty of all 30 counts, 17 of which could send him to death row.
If hearing the verdicts seemed overwhelming, that paled in comparison to seeing and hearing evidence behind them: awful images and sounds. The jury saw bombs explode and tear people apart. They saw streets splashed crimson with blood and littered with severed limbs and body parts. They heard the cries of the injured, and witnesses told them how people tended to the dying and gravely injured, unaware of their own injuries as they tied belts around the mangled limbs of friends and strangers alike.
They heard a prosecutor explain why this was done: Tsarnaev was punishing Americans and sending a message to the holy warriors of radical Islam to rise up.
And they saw surveillance photos of Tsarnaev, who prosecutors described as a callous killer, strolling through the aisles of Whole Foods to buy milk and smiling as he stopped by his college gym shortly after the deadly bombing.
Today’s verdict was a major step in the trial, but the toughest legal battles may be yet to come.
The trial will resume, possibly early next week, for a second phase to determine Tsarnaev’s punishment.
The jury’s next assignment: deciding whether the man responsible for the worst act of terrorism on American soil since September 11, 2001, should pay with his life.
It took the jury of seven women and five men 11 and a half hours of deliberations to reach their verdict. Tsarnaev, 21, didn’t look at jurors as their decisions were read.
Survivors of the bombing said they were gratified by Wednesday’s decision, but found no joy in it.
“Obviously we are grateful for the outcome today,” bombing survivor Karen Brassard said after the verdict was announced. “It’s not a happy occasion, but it’s something that we can put one more step behind us.”
Jeff Bauman, who lost his legs in the bombing, said he was relieved.
“Today’s verdict will never replace the lives that were lost and so dramatically changed,” he said, “but it is a relief, and one step closer to closure.”
Federal prosecutors are now focusing on the trial’s upcoming penalty phase, said Carmen Ortiz, the US Attorney for the District of Massachusetts. “We are gratified by the jury’s verdict and thank everyone who played a role in the trial for their hard work,” Oritz said, declining to comment further.
In the next phase of the trial, jurors will hear evidence of what makes Tsarnaev’s crimes so heinous he should be executed.
The defense will try to soften his actions by painting him in a more sympathetic light.
Tsarnaev’s attorney, Judy Clarke, is one of the nation’s foremost experts on keeping clients off death row.
She has successfully fought for the lives of Ted Kaczynski, aka the Unabomber, and Jared Loughner, the gunman who killed a judge and wounded former US Representative Gabrielle Giffords.
For weeks, Clarke has been laying the groundwork for her argument to persuade the jury to spare Tsarnaev’s life.