The first phase of the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev trial came to an end today, as the defendant was convicted of all charges.
I was lucky enough to snag one of the general public seats in the courtroom to witness the reading of the verdict firsthand. The U.S. Attorney’s office announced that a verdict was reached at 1:24 p.m., triggering a mad dash to Courtroom 9 on the 3rd floor. There, court officers made everyone line up behind a table, and they began calling members of the media into the courtroom alphabetically by newspaper/station name. The general public was finally let in at 1:55. While we waited, attorneys, victims, survivors, and law enforcement officials gradually trickled in, bypassing the line. The atmosphere in the courtroom was very tense, and the attorneys for both sides milled around in the well of the courtroom as everyone in the gallery sat silently.
Court clerk Paul Lyness reminded everyone that no photography or video recording is allowed, and that there must be “complete silence” in the courtroom, with no reactions, physical signs, or demonstrations. Tsarnaev was led into the courtroom with his customary downward gaze, slight smile, and bounce in his step. He was wearing a black suit jacket, gray pants, blue v-neck sweater, and white shirt. At the defense table, Judy Clarke sat to his left and leaned over to talk quietly to him. William Fick sat to his right.
At 2:05, everyone stood as the judge and jury filed in. The jurors appeared somber and looked either downwards or straight ahead, avoiding looking at Tsarnaev. Only the 12 deliberating jurors entered the jury box, while the 6 alternates sat to the side. Lyness instructed the deliberating jurors and the defense team to remain standing. He asked the forewoman if the jury had reached a verdict, she replied yes and handed him the verdict slip, and he brought it to Judge George O’Toole. After the judge looked the slip over, Lyness began to read it aloud. This took about a half hour, as the slip was 32 pages long and contained 30 charges, most with multiple elements and sub-parts.
Tsarnaev Verdict Slip
Tsarnaev was found guilty of each and every charge against him, and the jury answered affirmatively to each of the questions following each charge. Clerk Lyness kept calmly reading, pausing occasionally to take a sip of water. Tsarnaev appeared mostly calm as well. Sometimes he looked down, sometimes he looked towards the jury, sometimes he shifted position, a couple times he crossed his left arm across his body, and a few times he scratched his head or ran his fingers through his hair. It was difficult to tell whether he was fidgeting out of nervousness and self-consciousness, or nonchalance and boredom.
“Madam Foreperson, is that your verdict?” Lyness asked. “Yes,” she replied.
“What say you all?” Lyness asked. “Yes,” the jurors said together.
Judge O’Toole explained that the penalty phase comes next, and that the jurors are still part of an active jury, with the same obligations as before, e.g. avoiding discussions and news reports about the case. “There’ll probably be some today,” he said, in a huge understatement. Tsarnaev sat and listened with his chin resting on his hand. Court adjourned around 2:45. Everyone will get a few days of rest before the penalty phase begins at some point next week.