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Prosecution Rests Case Against Admitted Boston Marathon Bomber


A milestone today in the case against admitted Boston Marathon bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The prosecution rested, and the defense attorneys began their case. NPR's Tovia Smith was in court and joins us now. And, Tovia, I understand there was a rather dramatic ending to prosecutors' evidence this morning. Can you describe it?

TOVIA SMITH, BYLINE: Yeah. It was both dramatic and disturbing. As you know, even though the defense attorneys have conceded that Tsarnaev did it, prosecutors still have to prove it. And their grand finale today was two medical examiners who described, in graphic detail, the injuries to the two people killed by the bomb left by Tsarnaev, 23-year-old student, Lingzi Lu, who, according to testimony, may have been alive, suffering for minutes before she died, and then 8-year-old Martin Richard. The medical examiner said not one single part of his little four-and-a-half-foot-tall body escaped injury. Just gut-wrenching details of how his body was eviscerated, his arm blown off - heartbreaking even to see this little boy's clothes, a Boston Celtics jersey over a Patriots T-shirt he wore that day. Both were shredded and soaked in blood - truly horrific.

I saw some jurors winced, some wept, some shook their heads side to side. A few held their heads in their hands. And Martin Richard's parents were there, his father with his arm pulling tight around his mother. She left the court still clutching her tissues after it was over. And I'll just add, as difficult as it was to see the images of the victims after the blast, it really was as disturbing to see the video showing just before the explosion, those same people and kids enjoying the race just a few feet away from Tsarnaev and his backpack.

CORNISH: Tovia, given the atmosphere you've described here, I mean, what kind of reaction was there from the defendant?

SMITH: Well, we're sitting directly behind him, so most of what we see is the back of his head. But I can tell you his attorneys make a point of turning to look right at the witness during emotional testimony like this, but Tsarnaev - not so much. He looks mostly down or away. And the video monitor that usually shows trial evidence right in front of him - that was pointed away today, too, so Tsarnaev was not looking at the autopsy pictures.

CORNISH: So after all this, what about Tsarnaev's defense team? I mean, how did they lay out this case?

SMITH: Well, prosecutors deliberately ended on this extremely emotional note about those killed, reminding jurors what this case is about. So defense attorneys immediately swung it right back away from that, back to the technical stuff. They started with some pretty dry testimony about a book found under a couch at the Tsarnaev family apartment. The defense is aiming to show that Tsarnaev didn't live at that apartment. His older brother, Tamerlan, did, so they suggest the evidence that was found there should just incriminate his brother, not him. They also brought up some tweets from before the attack, trying to cast Tsarnaev as more of a typical teenager than a radical terrorist. And the defense also suggested Tsarnaev was not the one who bought the pressure cooker or the BBs for the bombs.

And all of this, of course, is aimed at their one and only goal here. That is to show that Tamerlan was the real terrorist who drove this evil plot and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was just a vulnerable little brother who was sucked into it. And the defense hopes that'll convince jurors that he doesn't deserve to die if and when it comes to sentencing. And it did seem that at first the defense was scoring a point or two, but on cross examination, prosecutors really gained - seemed to gain back any ground they may have lost today.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Tovia Smith. Tovia, thank you.

SMITH: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tovia Smith is an award-winning NPR National Correspondent based in Boston, who's spent more than three decades covering news around New England and beyond.

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