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Boston Bombing Trial: Prosecutor Describes Tsarnaev as 'America's Worst Nightmare'

“It is impossible for me to overstate the importance of the decision in front of you,” the judge said.
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A federal prosecutor told jurors on Tuesday that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev — “determined to be America’s worst nightmare” and unrepentant to this day — deserves to die for the bombing of the Boston Marathon.

Prosecutor Nicole Pellegrini opened the penalty phase of Tsarnaev’s trial by focusing on photos of four victims — three killed at the marathon and a campus police officer gunned down three days later.

“Before he murdered them in some of the cruelest ways possible, they were sons, they were daughters, they were grandchildren,” Pellegrini told the jury. “But now these beautiful faces are symbols, are memorials.”

Later the government began calling witnesses who described ghastly scenes of smoke, blood and screams after the attack.

Pellegrini described Tsarnaev as “untouched, unrepentant” — and finished her opening statement with a photo of him giving the middle finger to a camera in the courthouse jail.

She asked the jury to linger on the photos of the victims.

“These people, they were the enemy to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev,” she said. “He was destined to be America’s worst nightmare.”

Tsarnaev, 21, was convicted earlier this month of 30 federal counts in the bombings. The same jury must now decide whether he should die or be sentenced to life in prison without parole.

The defense, which will open its case Monday, is expected to argue that he was a troubled adolescent, dominated by a violent older brother who radicalized him. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in a firefight with law enforcement four nights after the attack.

The government’s first witness. Celeste Corcoran, remembered April 15, 2013, as a beautiful day. Her sister was running the race, and Corcoran and her husband took up a position in front of a sporting goods store on Boylston Street.

“Then our whole world just exploded,” she said.

She recalled being thrown in the air by the force of the blast, being surrounded by black smoke and hearing “blood-curdling screams” as debris fell all around. She described checking with her husband to make sure her feet were still attached to her legs.

She remembered thinking: “No, no, I want it to be five minutes ago.”

Corcoran cried as she described being asked later to sign a form so doctors could amputate both her legs. She wears two prosthetics.

Jurors were then shown a photo of her daughter, Sydney, on a stretcher. She was hit by a piece of shrapnel the size of a cellphone, her mother said, and sustained injuries to both legs.

A second witness, Gillian Reny, cried steadily on the witness stand as she described severe damage to both legs. Asked what she remembered about when the bomb went off, she mentioned silence, “then chaos. Just chaos that I had never seen and never want to see again.”

The father of Krystle Campbell, one of the three people killed at the marathon, remembered his daughter as “just a perfect young lady.” Jurors were shown photos of her at prom, playing baseball, in the pool as a child.

William Campbell Jr. recalled spending 12 hours at the hospital talking to doctors how about to save his daughter. It turned out to be a case of mistaken identity. He said he realized it when a doctor asked him to take a walk.

“I walked into the room and it wasn’t Krystle,” he testified. “I passed out on the floor.”