Defense Closing in Tsarnaev Trial

Judy Clarke is about to deliver her closing argument in the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. I'm following Reporter Jim Armstrong on Twitter. Worth mentioning: As Clarke goes through the mitigating factors, keep in mind they do not have to relate to the commission of the offense. [More...]

From the defense jury instructions:
The law does not require that there be a connection between the mitigating evidence and the crime committed. It is not necessary for example, for the defense to prove that adverse circumstances in the defendantís childhood or family background caused him to commit the offense. Whether any given mitigating factor had a direct connection to the crime does not affect its status as a mitigating circumstance that you are required to consider.

The defense needs to prove mitigating factors by a preponderance of the evidence.


Clarke: I come before you to ask you to choose life.

...."I need to talk with you about Jahar, but before I do..." I must tell you this story is not about Tamerlan and Dzhokhar.... This story is about the tragedy of the brothers' making.

"The story of the Boston marathon bombing" is about the strength and resilience of those who were affected by that horrific act.

... But now you have to decide who Tsarnaev was, who he is, "and who he might become."

Clarke: Tsarnaev doesn't want your sympathy; that belongs with the victims and families. But please try to understand him.

Clarke: Tsarnaev's parents were troubled; there were "mixed reviews" about his mother and her behavior.

Clarke: Zubeidat had great plans for Tamerlan, "but where was Jahar through all this?" He was the quiet kid, working hard, doing homework.

Clarke shows jurors pictures of Tsarnaev dancing in his grade-school classroom, smiling. His teachers loved him, saw great promise in him.

Jurors are all listening intently to Clarke, as she makes sure she shows the photo of Tsarnaev holding his teacher's newborn baby

Clarke: "But where was Dzhokhar's dad?" Dzhokhar "was the invisible kid", ignored by his father who preferred Tamerlan the boxer.

Clarke reads from the college recommendation letter the jury has already seen, written by one of Tsarnaev's high school teachers.

Clarke: Tsarnaev did model UN, helped disabled kids, wrestled. But "he seemed to do high school on his own." Parents were no-shows.

Clarke: Tsarnaev's parents were splitting up, Tamerlan was studying conspiracy theories, his mom embraces conservative religious views.

Clarke shows jury the US reports they've already seen, confirming Tsarnaev's mom and brother were subjects of investigation for radicalism.

Clarke: Meantime, Anzor Tsarnaev, the dad, was becoming "more and more disabled", mentally unstable... Clarke reviews Anzor's terrible and lengthy mental health problems. This was Dzhokhar's dad, she says.

But Tsarnaev still had friends; you saw some of them. They call him "sweet, shy, and goofy". He was respectful to girls.

Clarke: Tsarnaev's friends, wrestling team buddies, coach - none would ever have thought he was capable of the bombings.

Clarke: The one constant in Tsarnaev's life? He was "the invisible child."

2012 "was a remarkably unsettling year for Dzhokhar." Brother goes to Russia to seek jihad, his parents separated.

Clarke: Tsarnaev's mom goes to Russia in 9/2012 for good, and chooses not to support or guide her younger son. He's left alone with Tamleran

Clarke: Tamerlan had charisma, was bigger, older. As in many families, a younger brother will revere his older brother, esp. w/ Chechens.

Clarke: "So we need to talk about Tamerlan" even if the government wants to minimize him. "Tamerlan did influence Dzhokhar."

Clarke: The story of the Boston Marathon bombing cannot be realistically told without Tamerlan

Clarke: Tamerlan was a skilled boxer, but he couldn't go to the Olympics, he didn't hold a job, stopped going to school; things went wrong.

Clarke shows photo of Tamerlan and wife, Katherine Russell, saying she is another example of Tamerlan's incredible power/influence over people

That's it for me for now, I have to get to court myself. For more, check out reporter Jim Armstrong.

Update: More from Judy Clarke's closing (via Armstrong):

Clarke: "We are asking you to choose life. Yes, even for the Boston Marathon bomber."

Clarke: You've heard it - if this isn't a case for the death penalty, what is? But that comes from a place of pain.

Clarke: But there is no punishment that can balance these scales.

Clarke: Life in prison "doesn't dishonor the victims in this case."

Clarke: Tsarnaev will die under bleak conditions, with no fame and no attention, and no glory or stature that martyrdom might bring.

Clarke: The gov't claims Tsarnaev was motivated to bomb the marathon by an eye-for-an-eye mentality. Is that who we also are?

Clarke: Life in prison "reflects justice and mercy" and allows for redemption.

On Supermax:

Clarke: "Let's get real, this isn't a club. It isn't a resort. This is the most rigid, punitive prison in America."

Clarke: This is a prison where 29 grown men vie for the job that lets them scrub the showers.

Clarke: No one can give you "a 100% guarantee" #Tsarnaev will always stay in the H-unit there, but the people at this table will decide.

Clarke: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will die in prison. The question is when or how.

On weighing the factors:

Clarke: You have an obligation to discuss & hear each other's views. "But the law values life and you have no obligation to vote for death."

Clarke: You can find 1 mitigating factor outweighs every aggravating one. Or, find there are no mitigating factors and still not impose death.

On the aggravating factors:

Clarke: All those aggravating factors on the verdict form? "Check them off." You already know they apply.... But now, consider the mitigating ones.

Clarke: you'll have to ask yourselves, is there hope for Tsarnaev?

< Wednesday Open Thread | Tsarnaev Jury to Consider 21 Mitigating Factors >
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  • Display: Sort:
    July Clarke closing was very good (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by TycheSD on Wed May 13, 2015 at 05:56:48 PM EST
    I really wasn't expecting a lot from Clarke.  I don't know a lot about her and she has gotten off a number of people through plea deals.  But I was very impressed.  Her description of how this all came about just seemed more believable to me than the prosecution's.  But I have been sympathetic toward Tsarnaev since the beginning.  Some of her comments toward the end about why the jury should "choose life" were worthy of quotation.  And, I think she affected some jurors.  Reporters I followed on Twitter said that the jury was rapt with attention toward the end of Judy's talk.

    I thought Weinreb was more effective than Mellin, but I expected that to be the case.  Weinreb is a very good trial lawyer.  But this whole team was super aggressive in trying to get the death penalty.  I'm not sure what was behind this and think it's probably in part ego, part politics, and part pressure from some of the victim families.  But the crime was devastating.  It's just that in most countries comparable to the United States they don't even have the death penalty.  In a few European countries (I believe UK, some Scandinavian countries, maybe Austria), I don't even know if Tsarnaev would have been eligible for life without parole because of his age at the time of the crime.  This country is way too harsh on its punishments.  I wish this whole prison/security state would get chopped down somehow.

    Judy Clarke was the chief federal public defender (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by Peter G on Wed May 13, 2015 at 08:11:39 PM EST
    for Southern California, one of the top offices in the national FPD system. Then she was the chief FPD for Eastern Washington and Idaho. She was the first woman to be elected president of the National Ass'n of Criminal Defense Lawyers. In recent years she has been a kind of itinerant death penalty expert, taking some of the most challenging cases in the whole country. She is revered and beloved among her professional colleagues and peers. If is only because you haven't researched her career (or don't know her, as Jeralyn and I and others in the field do) that you "didn't expect much."

    Were I a (none / 0) (#2)
    by lentinel on Wed May 13, 2015 at 05:59:04 PM EST
    member of the jury, I would find this formulation very difficult to swallow:

    "The story of the Boston marathon bombing" is about the strength and resilience of those who were affected by that horrific act.

    Other than my general opposition to the death . . (none / 0) (#3)
    by Payaso on Wed May 13, 2015 at 06:04:09 PM EST
    Other than my general opposition to the death penalty I can see no reason why Jar Jar's life should be spared.

    "final and irrevocable" (none / 0) (#5)
    by thomas rogan on Fri May 15, 2015 at 02:09:42 PM EST
    So does this mean that "Life without parole" will turn into a series of campaigns for clemency and pardon as the years go by?

    Just asking? (5.00 / 3) (#6)
    by Peter G on Fri May 15, 2015 at 02:16:46 PM EST
    The death penalty (none / 0) (#7)
    by CaptHowdy on Fri May 15, 2015 at 02:24:06 PM EST
    certainly will.   Which is the stated reason some of the victim families are asking for life.  He admitted guilt.  I doubt there is much appeal room.

    Verdict: Death (none / 0) (#8)
    by jbindc on Fri May 15, 2015 at 02:31:46 PM EST
    On some counts.

    The reason I sort of expected this, (none / 0) (#9)
    by CaptHowdy on Fri May 15, 2015 at 02:40:53 PM EST
    if you want to get rid of the death penalty, great.  So do I.  But if there is going to be a death penalty if not now, when?

    Honestly this does not surprise me at all.   I was surprised to see people who understand the law better than me expecting something else.


    In other words (none / 0) (#10)
    by CaptHowdy on Fri May 15, 2015 at 02:43:37 PM EST
    i can't remember a more heinous crime or a less sympathetic perp.

    Six counts (none / 0) (#11)
    by Amiss on Fri May 15, 2015 at 02:45:50 PM EST
    Unanimous on 6 counts on death penalty.
    Best news is is he in the custody of Marshalls and will leave Boston.