America’s most infamous convicted terrorist remains one of its biggest mysteries.
Despite a long trial, little is known about Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev outside of his age (21), his laidback demeanour and that he admitted to carrying out the terror attack with brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
That is about to change as the sentencing phase of the trial begins.
“The jury will receive a lot of information about him, his life, how he grew up, where he was emotionally,” defence attorney George Kendall told the New York Times.
The series of hearings will determine whether he faces life in prison or the death penalty, a decision to be made after family and friends testify to judge and jury about their interactions with the mystery man.
“The sentencing phase is going to be fascinating,” J. Reid Meloy, a San Diego psychologist and longtime criminal consultant, told the Boston Herald. “You’re going to hear from doctors about his history and you’ll get a tremendous amount of data. The doors are going to be thrown wide-open on him.”
Tsarnaev, who was born in Kyrgyzstan, never took the stand, he never spoke of his motivations for the attack or any guilt he may now feel. He instead let his lawyers speak.
“They suggested he kept his distress over his splintered family and failing college grades hidden from others, and soon became vulnerable to the jihadist path offered by a radicalized older brother,” said the Boston Globe.
Tsarnaev sometimes laughed with attorneys during moments before and after daily legal proceedings but mostly kept to himself and even appeared bored during the actual trial, according to reporters tweeting from the court room.
This persona has drawn comparisons to Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.
“McVeigh was polite, personable and thoughtful in his jail cell, yet silent, brooding and disengaged in court. He would be very stoic, just looking straight ahead, showing no expression in the courtroom,” Larry Homenick, a former chief deputy U.S. marshal who guarded Oklahoma City bomber McVeigh during his trial, told the Herald.
“He called it his ‘game face.'”
A Rolling Stone profile of Tsarnaev painted a starkly contrasting picture of the face the world has come to know since the bombing.
“After several months of interviews with friends, teachers and coaches still reeling from the shock, what emerges is a portrait of a boy who glided through life, showing virtually no signs of anger, let alone radical political ideology or any kind of deeply felt religious beliefs,” the magazine explained.
An honour society student in high school, Tsarnaev played basketball and was also on the wrestling team, his former coach called him “a natural,” according to Rolling Stone. He was even described by one person as a “cuddly kitten” during his childhood.
McVeigh was put to death in a federal prison just months before the 9/11 terror attacks. He is the only federal prisoner to ever receive a death sentence.
A Boston jury is now tasked with deciding whether to send Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to die or spend the rest of his life behind bars. But first they must get to know him.
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