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At Boston Marathon Bombing Trial, 'Graphic And Grueling' Testimony

In this courtroom sketch, Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is depicted sitting in federal court for a pretrial hearing in Boston on Dec. 18. Tsarnaev is charged with the April 2013 bombing that killed three people and injured more than 260. He could face the death penalty if convicted.
Jane Flavell Collins

Updated at 5:18 p.m. ET

Jurors in Boston heard more harrowing testimony today in the trial of Dzhokar Tsarnaev, the accused Boston Marathon bomber. Survivors, as well as police and first responders, recounted often-disturbing accounts of their suffering.

NPR's Tovia Smith, who was at the trial, called the testimony "excruciatingly graphic and grueling." Here's part of her reporting on today's All Things Considered:

"A police officer described trying to save a victim as her body was quivering and her eyes were rolling in her head. She choked up as she recalled getting her into an ambulance, and then being told, when the woman died, to take her out to make room for others.

"Another amputee wept as she recalled seeing her foot just barely dangling from her leg."

Defense attorneys sat silently; on Wednesday, the first day of the trial, they said that Tsarnaev did it.

Tovia reports that Tsarnaev's attorneys are frustrated that the government won't offer a deal of life in prison in exchange for a guilty plea.

"One wonders, OK, why wouldn't you with now a 21-year-old exchange the death penalty for life in prison without any possibility of parole in a Supermax facility?" Brad Bailey, a former prosecutor, told Tovia.

But Gerry Leone, another former prosecutor, told her that the government's position makes sense.

"If you look at the grave risk of death to others; the heinous, cruel, depraved manner in which the defendant carried out the act; the vulnerability of victims — you look at all those aggravating circumstances, reasonable minds can differ on the death penalty, but reasonable minds are not going to cause the Department of Justice to take it off table," he said.

(Tovia is tweeting livefrom the proceedings (we'll embed her timeline at the bottom of this story). NPR member station WBUR is covering today's proceedings live on Twitter, too. You can follow that here.)

Tsarnaev faces 30 counts — most of which carry the death penalty. But his lawyer says he was not the mastermind of the bombing; she portrayed him as a young man who idolized and was intimidated by his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was killed in the aftermath of the attack.

Federal prosecutors, using their opening statements and graphic videos, painted him as a killer. He planted a bomb to "tear people apart and create a bloody spectacle," prosecutor William Weinreb said Wednesday, and then hung out with his college buddies.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Krishnadev Calamur is NPR's deputy Washington editor. In this role, he helps oversee planning of the Washington desk's news coverage. He also edits NPR's Supreme Court coverage. Previously, Calamur was an editor and staff writer at The Atlantic. This is his second stint at NPR, having previously worked on NPR's website from 2008-15. Calamur received an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri.
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