Witnesses to resume describing horror of Boston Marathon bombing

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 09, 2015 7:04 AM

BOSTON (Reuters) - The Boston Marathon bombing trial is set to resume on Monday with more witness testimony about the twin blasts that killed three people and injured 264 when they ripped through the crowd at the race's finish line on April 15, 2013.

Attorneys for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 21, opened their case last week by bluntly declaring that the defendant and his older brother were responsible for the attack as well as the fatal shooting of a police officer three days later, in an effort to focus attention on the brother's role in the plot.

Defense lawyers contend that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, who died following a gunbattle with police three days after the bombing, was the driving force behind the attack, with Dzhokhar following along out of a sense of submission. By pinning the bulk of the blame on Tamerlan, defense lawyers hope to persuade the jury at U.S. District Court in Boston not to sentence their client to death.

Prosecutors maintain that Dzhokhar also read jihadist magazines online and "believed that he was a soldier in a holy war against Americans."

In the first two days of testimony, the jury heard from 16 prosecution witnesses, including survivors of the blasts who lost legs, first responders and the father of 8-year-old Martin Richard, the youngest person to die in the attack.

Despite his lawyers' admission of responsibility, Tsarnaev has not changed his plea from not guilty. In the first weeks of the trial, prosecutors say evidence will focus on the ethnic Chechen's actions leading up to the bombing and in the four chaotic days that followed, before he was found hiding in a drydocked boat at the end of a long manhunt.

U.S. District Judge George O'Toole has worked to keep both defense and prosecution attorneys focused on direct evidence of Tsarnaev's guilt, leaving the question of how his responsibility compared with his brother's until the trial's sentencing phase.

The trial moved along at a quicker than expected pace for its first two days as defense attorneys declined to cross-examine all but one of the witnesses who testified.

The bombing killed restaurant manager Krystle Campbell, 29, and graduate student Lingzi Lu, 23, as well as Martin. Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer Sean Collier, 27, was fatally shot three days later.

(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Tom Brown)