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Boston Bombing Trial: Jurors Hear Graphic Testimony About Human Toll

Heather Abbott described being catapulted by the force of the first bomb and landing on the ground “in a pool of chaos and blood.”
/ Source: NBC News

The government rested its case Thursday in the penalty phase of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s trial after jurors heard more graphic testimony about the human toll of the Boston Marathon blasts and looked at photos of more than a dozen amputees.

Michele Gamble, a field photographer for the Boston FBI office, built an exhibit to show the jury how close one of the bombs was to Martin Richard, the 8-year-old boy who was killed — about 3½ feet, she said.

Dr. David King, a Boston trauma surgeon, testified “with an extraordinarily high degree of certainty” that the boy did not die instantly.

Because of his size and height, “suddenly your torso, abdomen, lungs, brain, trachea, are within that blast radius,” King said. Particularly because of injuries to his abdomen, Martin would have felt “visceral pain, much more primal,” he said.

Heather Abbott described being catapulted by the force of the first bomb and landing on the ground “in a pool of chaos and blood.” She talked about the agony of agreeing to have one of her legs amputated below the knee.

“It was probably the hardest decision I would ever have to make,” she said.

Marc Fucarile, who had gone to the race on April 15, 2013, to support a friend who was running, remembered “a lot of yelling, a lot of screaming, people yelling for tourniquets, tablecloths.”

He estimated that 90 percent of his body below the waist was burned, and that surgeons took 80 percent of the skin off his back for grafts. He figured he has had more than 60 medical procedures, including two amputations, with a third scheduled soon.

Fucarile also said he has a BB lodged in the right atrium of his heart. If it comes loose, he said, it could collapse his lung. Asked by a prosecutor for his prognosis, he said, “It could be anything from infections to death.” He wheeled himself off the witness stand.

The same jury that convicted Tsarnaev of 30 federal counts earlier this month will decide whether he gets the death penalty. The defense, arguing for life in prison, is expected to begin presenting its case Monday.

On Thursday, Steve Woolfenden testified that he looked down after the second bomb and saw that his son, Leo, 3 at the time, was bleeding from the head. He said he thought, “Let’s get out of here,” and then realized that his own leg had been severed.

“At that moment I took off my belt and I put it around my thigh as tight as I could,” he said. “It smelled like burning hair, blood, sulfur.”

Someone came by and asked what he could do. Woolfenden asked for help with his son. The man said, “I will do that, but first I will put another tourniquet on your leg,” Woolfenden testified.

In a video played for the jury, Tsarnaev walked right past Woolfenden before the bomb went off.


— Tom Winter, Andy Thibault and Erin McClam