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Tsarnaev Defense Begins Making Case for Life

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's defense team began making the case for life instead of death today. From David Bruck's opening statement: (Taken from WBZ reporter Jim Armstrong's live tweets in court.) [More...]

Jahar was a lost teenager, raised all his life to take direction from the most powerful adult in his life, Tamerlan.

Tamerlan was the impulse behind the Boston Marathon bombings; the fanatical emotions and ideology behind it. "If Tamerlan hadn't been in the picture, would Jahar have done this on his own?"

"There's no point in trying to hurt him as he hurt, because it can't be done. All you can do...is make the best choice." "We are asking you to punish Jahar by imprisoning him for the rest of his life."

"One punishment is over quickly...the other will last for years and decades while he is locked away."

Bruck shows jurors a photo of the Supermax facility in Florence, CO, telling them this is where #Tsarnaev will go for a life term. He also shows a photo from wintertime; it's a desolate, barren, frozen white landscape, like a movie set.

If Tsarnaev goes here, he will be "safely and securely" locked away. He'll go here and be forgotten; no more spotlight.

When Tsarnaev goes to this prison, "there will be no nothing", no jailhouse interview, no autobiography; he'll be cut off forever.

You must also consider the culture into which Tsarnaev was born, and his particular family.
We will bring in an expert professor from Princeton who will explain who the Chechen people are, their culture, etc. ... Stalin's mass-deportation of the Chechen people, which affected Tsarnaev's parents.

Dzhokhar grew up in a unrealistic atmosphere, full of unrealistic expectation and isappointment.

As Tsarnaev goes to college, both his parents return to Russia under duress and he's left with Tamerlan as his only guide.

Dzhokhar was "loved by his teachers and appreciated by his friends. He did well in school."

You can't find anyone to say such nice things about Tamerlan; everyone liked Dzhokhar. "He was a good kid."

His father and mother had a complicated relationship; his family rejected her. This caused a lot of heartache...His parents lived "a nomadic life" with unrealistic hopes and a lifetime of failures, their 4 small children in tow.

Both of Tsarnaev's parents were eventually diagnosed with "serious mental illness". His father was so ill, he received SSI once in the US.
With their dad too sick, Tamerlan took over the role of leader of his family. Their mom turned to fundamentalist religion.

His mother's own family was and is "mystified" by the changes in her life; Tamerlan became the hope for the family.

Tamerlan was going to become a famous boxer, a lawyer, a dentist, a Harvard student, according to his mother.

In families like this, the older brother holds tremendous power. Professor Reynolds will also explain Chechnya's war-torn history.

Relatives who have come here from Russia will tell you, with a translator, what Tamerlan was like on that jihadi recon trip.

Tamerlan was already planning to wage jihadi battles in Russia while Dzhokhar was a 17 year old high school senior.

"Dzhokhar could and did try to get around Tamerlan", including with his pot-smoking and his own friends. "Dzhokhar did not defy Tamerlan to his face."

Dzhokhar could have controlled himself, yes, and he knew what he was doing. But he was, still, only 19....Teens are like cars with powerful engines and faulty brakes..... Once Tsarnaev decided to follow his older brother, "he was all-in".

In the 1st phase, you heard a lot about what was on Dzhokhar's computer. Now, we will show you what was on Tamerlan's. The picture looks very different" once you see what Tamerlan's computer held; he was obsessed, consumed with jihad.

Among the witnesses today: Katherine Russell's mother; a computer IT guy (as to what was found on Tamerlan's computer); A teacher; a schoolmate; an iman from a visiting mosque who was speaking about Martin Luther King, Jr. when Tamerlan had an angry outburst; and a grocery store owner who saw Tamerlan lash out at a local Iman for encouraging people to vote.

The jury will also hear from an expert to talk about the human brain and how the adolescent mind matures.

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