BOSTON — A lawyer for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev urged a jury Monday to spare the young man's life, portraying him as "a good kid" who was led astray by his radicalized and belligerent older brother.
David Bruck delivered the defense's opening statement in the penalty phase of Tsarnaev's trial, saying there is no punishment Tsarnaev can get that would be equal to the suffering of the victims.
"There is no evening the scales," Bruck said. "There is no point in trying to hurt him as he hurt because it can't be done."
Tsarnaev, 21, was convicted of 30 federal charges in the twin bombings that killed three spectators and wounded more than 260 other people near the marathon's finish line on April 15, 2013. He was also convicted of killing an MIT police officer during the Tsarnaev brothers' getaway attempt.
This stage will determine whether he is executed or spends the rest of his life behind bars.
Bruck urged the jury to sentence the defendant to life in prison without the possibility of ever being released.
"His legal case will be over for good, and no martyrdom, just years and years of punishment," the lawyer said. "All the while, society is protected."
Bruck focused heavily on Tsarnaev's now-dead brother, Tamerlan, saying he led the plot and provided the "fuel" to drive the plan. He said Tamerlan was "consumed by jihad" and had "power" over Dzhokhar, who admired his older brother.
Bruck contrasted Tamerlan with Dzhokhar, saying Tamerlan was loud and aggressive, got into fights, failed at everything he did and never held a steady job, while Dzhokhar was a good student in high school, was loved by his teachers there, had many friends and never got in a fight.
"He was a good kid," the lawyer said. But he said Tsarnaev started going downhill in college.
Tsarnaev was a 19-year-old college student at the time of the bombing. His brother, 26, was killed days after the attack when he was shot by police and run over by Dzhokhar during a chaotic getaway attempt.
The first two witnesses called by the defense Monday described two incidents at a local mosque when Tamerlan Tsarnaev became angry and interrupted prayer services.
Loay Assaf, an imam, said that in one of those incidents, in January 2013, Tamerlan became furious when Assaf likened the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to the Prophet Muhammad. Assaf said Tamerlan began shouting at him and calling him a hypocrite.
The prosecution made its case in the penalty phase last week, calling victims and family members to the stand to recall in heartbreaking detail the blood, the screams and the terror of the attack and the pain and grief it continues to inflict.
Prosecutors portrayed Tsarnaev as an unrepentant killer who gave the finger to the security camera in his jail cell three months after his arrest. The startling photo and video were shown to the jury last week.
Bruck downplayed the gesture, saying Tsarnaev was "acting like an immature 19-year-old."