Lawyers to give closing arguments in marathon bomber’s trial

In this courtroom sketch, Assistant U.S. Attorney Aloke Chakravarty is depicted pointing to defendant Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, right, during closing arguments in Tsarnaev's federal death penalty trial Monday, April 6, 2015, in Boston. Tsarnaev is charged with conspiring with his brother to place two bombs near the Boston Marathon finish line in April 2013, killing three and injuring 260 people. (Jane Flavell Collins via AP)

BOSTON (AP) — It’s the last chance for prosecutors and lawyers to make a case for life in prison or the death penalty for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev when they present their closing arguments to the jury.

The jury is expected to begin its deliberations late Wednesday after it hears closing arguments and instructions from the judge.

Judge George O’Toole Jr. told jurors before closing arguments that they only have two choices for punishing Tsarnaev: life in prison without the possibility of release or the death penalty.

“The choice between these very serious alternatives is yours and yours alone to make,” the judge said.

During the four-month trial, prosecutors have portrayed Tsarnaev as a callous, unrepentant terrorist who carried out the deadly attack with his radicalized older brother, Tamerlan. They say he deserves the death penalty.

Tsarnaev’s lawyers admitted he participated in the bombings, but told the jury he was “a good kid” who was led down the path to terrorism by Tamerlan, who wanted to punish the U.S. for its actions in Muslim countries. They’ve asked the jury to spare his life.

Three people were killed and more than 260 were injured when two bombs exploded near the marathon’s finish line on April 15, 2013.

Tsarnaev, 21, was convicted by a federal jury last month of all 30 counts against him, including use of weapon of mass destruction. The same jury must now decide his punishment.

In their opening statement in the penalty phase, Tsarnaev’s lawyers urged the jury to sentence Tsarnaev to life in prison, calling it the most appropriate punishment for someone who was 19 when he committed the crime. They said a life sentence also would help the families of his victims, who wouldn’t be subjected to years of appeals and public attention that would almost certainly result if he is sentenced to death.

The defense showed the jury photos of the federal Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado, where Tsarnaev likely would be sent if he is sentenced to life. There, his lawyers said, he would remain, locked in his cell 23 hours a day, living an austere, solitary existence until the day he dies, denying him the martyrdom he apparently wanted.

Prosecutors, however, said death is the only appropriate punishment for Tsarnaev. They said he was an equal partner with his brother in planning and carrying out the bombings. He planted his bomb behind a group of children, killing 8-year-old Martin Richard.

“Nothing will explain his cruelty and his indifference,” prosecutor Nadine Pellegrini said.

Jurors must be unanimous in their decision to give Tsarnaev the death penalty. If even a single juror votes against death, Tsarnaev will be sentenced to life in prison.

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