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Sister Helen Prejean Testifies at Bombing Trial: Tsarnaev 'Genuinely Sorry'

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's defense team wrapped up its its case against the death penalty on Monday.
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A nun who ministers to death-row inmates told a jury Monday that convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev seemed "genuinely sorry" and said of his victims: "No one deserves to suffer like they did."

The testimony from Sister Helen Prejean, an influential opponent of capital punishment who was made famous after being portrayed in the film "Dead Man Walking," capped Tsarnaev's defense team's case against sending him to execution.

Prejean, who helps run an organization called Ministry Against the Death Penalty, recalled having a conversation with Tsarnaev in which he appeared remorseful. The March meeting was the first of five between the two as part of her work trying to help "people who have done terrible crimes" come to grips with their actions and take some responsibility, she said.

Prejean and Tsarnaev talked about Islam, Christianity, his crimes and his victims, she said. He seemed sincere, she said, when he spoke of the people who had been killed and injured in the April 15, 2013 bombings at the race's finish line. Looking at his face and listening to the pained tone of his voice, Prejean said, she believed Tsarnaev "was genuinely sorry for what he did."

Sister Helen Prejean speaks to an audience at Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa, Thursday, February 16, 2012.
Sister Helen Prejean speaks to an audience at Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa, Thursday, February 16, 2012.Jeremy Portje / Telegraph Herald via AP

Tsarnaev, 21, has not expressed remorse publicly, however, and he did not take the stand in his own defense. He was convicted of all 30 counts against him for the bombing and the violence that followed, including the murder of an MIT police officer and a shootout with police in which his older brother and co-conspirator, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was killed.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's lawyers have tried to persuade the jury that he was manipulated by his brother, a radical Muslim, and should be sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Prosecutors, seeking the death penalty, have argued that Dzhokar Tsarnaev was a willing and equal partner in the crimes.

The jury is expected to begin deliberating on Tsarnaev's fate later this week, after both sides make their closing arguments.

With Prejean's testimony, the defense announced it had rested its case. Prosecutors followed with a rebuttal, calling and FBI agent and warden of the "supermax" prison where Tsarnaev would likely spend the rest of his life if spared the death penalty. Both talked about restrictions he'd face as a convicted terrorist, and the possibility of his earning more privileges.

With both sides finished arguing their cases, the penalty phase of the trial now proceeds to closing arguments, which will be held Wednesday. After that, the jury will begin deliberating.