BOSTON — The jury hearing the Boston Marathon bombing trial on Wednesday saw pieces of one of the pressure-cooker bombs that ripped through the crowd at the race’s finish line in 2013, killing three people and injuring 264.
Prosecutors also presented shredded pieces of a black and white backpack that they contend 21-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan, used to carry their homemade bombs.
FBI agent Sarah DeLair showed debris including nails, BB’s and pieces of shrapnel, as well as a piece of wire collected amid the wreckage on Boylston Street on April 15, 2013. The wire, she testified in U.S. District Court in Boston, was part of one of the bomb’s detonators.
“It’s the part of the bomb that would make it go off,” DeLair said.
Tsarnaev could be sentenced to death if he is convicted of charges including fatally shooting a police officer three days after the bombing as he and his brother tried to flee the city. Tamerlan, 26, died that night following a gunbattle with police.
Tsarnaev’s attorneys opened the trial by admitting he committed the crimes of which he is accused, but are seeking to spare him the death penalty by demonstrating he was following the lead of his older brother.
Federal prosecutors contend Tsarnaev, who emigrated with his family from Chechnya a decade before the attack, was driven by an extremist view of Islam and a desire to strike back at the United States in revenge for military campaigns in Muslim-dominated countries.
On Tuesday, jurors were presented with photographs of the blood-stained message that prosecutors say Tsarnaev wrote in pencil inside the hull of a boat in which he was hiding in Watertown, outside Boston, before his violent capture.
The note accuses the United States government of killing Muslims and says “I can’t stand to see such evil go unpunished”. It adds “I don’t like killing innocent people it is forbidden in Islam but due to said (…) it is allowed.” Words were missing from the note due to bullet holes.
After opening with three days of emotional and graphic testimony by witnesses including nine people injured in the attack, Tsarnaev’s trial has moved into to a more technical phase as prosecutors show evidence about the bombs and communication between the two brothers.
FBI agent Chad Fitzgerald testified on Wednesday that Tsarnaev registered an alternate cell phone under the name “Jahar None Tsarni” the day before the bombings, using the number to both receive and make calls to his brother while at the race and on April 18th, the day the FBI released photos of the two brothers.
Under cross-examination, Fitzgerald acknowledged that his records of calls made between Tsarnaev and his sibling did not include all possible information about the brothers’ communication on the day of the marathon.
“I don’t even know if there was a conversation,” said Fitzgerald, of a call Dzhokhar Tsarnaev made to Tamerlan at about 2:49 p.m. on race day, around the time the twin bombs went off.
Despite the admission that opened the trial, Tsarnaev’s not guilty plea stands, leaving it to the federal government to prove his guilt before the trial moves into a second phase, when the jury will determine whether to sentence him to death or life in prison without the possibility of parole.