BOSTON – Two of the people killed in the Boston Marathon bombing were torn apart by one of the blasts that ripped through runners and onlookers at the finish line, medical examiners testified on Monday as prosecutors wound up their case against accused bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and defense attorneys began calling witnesses.
Tsarnaev faces death or life in prison if convicted. It is not clear if Tsarnaev will testify in his own defense.
Massachusetts’ Chief Medical Examiner Henry Nields showed the jury 8-year-old Martin Richard’s bloodstained gray New England Patriots T-shirt with holes that correlated with injuries to the child’s torso.
On the 15th day of testimony in Tsarnaev’s trial at Boston federal court, Nields said a piece of shrapnel appeared to have gone straight through Richard’s body. “It would be difficult to say the precise location due to the size of the openings in the abdomen,” he testified. Nields was the 92nd and final witness called by the prosecution.
Shrapnel from the same homemade pressure cooker bomb that killed Richard punched through Chinese exchange student Lingzi Lu’s legs, causing the 23-year old to bleed to death within minutes, Boston medical examiner Katherine Lindstrom testified.
“Her injuries were caused by debris hitting her body and going through her body,” Lindstrom said. “They would have been very painful.”
Tsarnaev, 21, is charged with the April 15, 2013, bombing that killed three and injured 264 people, and the fatal shooting of Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer Sean Collier three days later as he and his brother prepared to flee the city.
The brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, died in the early morning hours of April 19 after a gunfight with police that ended when Dzhokhar inadvertently ran him over with a hijacked car.
Prosecutors have said Tsarnaev left the bomb that killed Richard and Lu in front of The Forum restaurant.
The third person to die, 29-year-old restaurant manager Krystle Campbell, was killed by another bomb, prosecutors said.
The jury saw surveillance photos and video of Tsarnaev standing in the crowd in front of the restaurant, with a backpack at his feet, making a 19-second phone call about a minute before the blast. In one photo, he is just feet behind Richard and his younger sister, who was badly injured but survived.
Defense lawyers opened the trial earlier in March with a blunt admission that Tsarnaev had done everything of which he had been accused by federal prosecutors. But they contended that he had done so out of a sense of subservience to his older brother rather than his own anger at his adopted country.
By painting Tamerlan as the driving force behind the attacks, the defense hopes to spare the younger Tsarnaev a death sentence and persuade the jury to determine that he should spend the rest of his life in prison.
The Tsarnaevs came to the United States from Chechnya about a decade before the attack, settling just outside Boston in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The defense began its case by calling Federal Bureau of Investigation photographer Michelle Gamble back to the witness stand. Gamble testified that a book on home wiring was found in the Cambridge, Massachusetts, apartment where Tamerlan Tsarnaev lived and that she had also been present at a search of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s college dorm room.
Defense lawyers will be limited in how much evidence they put forward about the relative blame of the two brothers before the jury decides Tsarnaev’s fate.
If the jury finds him guilty, the trial will enter a penalty phase, when both sides will call another round of witnesses before the same jury determines whether Tsarnaev should be sentenced to death or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
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