The jury in the Boston Marathon bombing trial on Wednesday began deliberations on whether to sentence Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death or to life imprisonment for his role in the 2013 attack that killed three people and injured over 300.
Following weeks of testimony and witnesses, the jurors began the task, but they heard a heated argument from the prosecution that Tsarnaev, 21, should be sentenced to death.
Citing a note that Tsarnaev wrote while hiding in a boat, bleeding, after a gunfight with police four days after the April 15, 2013, attack, Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Mellin said the ethnic Chechen had turned against his adopted country.
"He wrote, 'Now I don't like killing innocent people, but in this case it is allowed because America needs to be punished.' ... These are the words of a terrorist who is convinced he did the right thing," Mellin said.
"He killed indiscriminately to make a political statement. ... His actions have earned him a sentence of death."
The same jury last month convicted Tsaranev of killing three people and injuring almost 300 people in one of the highest-profile attacks on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001.
The prosecutor showed the jury photos of the bombing’s immediate aftermath, with victims whose legs were blown off sitting in pools of blood, and another image of a 29-year-old restaurant manager screaming in pain before she died of her injuries.
Meanwhile, the defense described Tsarnaev as an adrift teenager under the spell of his 26-year-old brother, Tamerlan, who they contend was mainly responsible for the bombing and murder three days after of a police officer.
If the jury believes that he deserves death for his role in the 2013 terrorist attack then he will be sentenced to execution by a lethal injection. However, if any member of the jury stands up against the death penalty Tsarnaev will spend the rest of his life in a maximum security prison.
Defense attorneys noted that when Dzhokhar's parents returned to their native Russia in 2012, he was left under the influence of Tamerlan, who had become obsessed with becoming a militant. Tamerlan also returned to Russia.
"The horrific events of the Boston Marathon bombing cannot be told or understood with any degree of reality without talking about Tamerlan," defense attorney Judith Clarke told jurors. "Tamerlan left the United States wanting to wage war. He was rejected as a warrior. ... He came back to the United States as a jihadi wannabe. He couldn't fit into any movement, so he would create his own."
Clarke showed a photo of Tamerlan wearing an Arab headdress and holding a handgun in front of a white flag with Arabic writing on it. She noted that Tamerlan and Tsarnaev's mother, Zubeidat, both stunned their family back in Russia when they turned into militants.