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Shocking images, brother's role expected at Boston Marathon trial

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Posted at 8:42 AM, Mar 04, 2015
and last updated 2015-03-04 08:42:09-05

Opening arguments are to begin Wednesday in the closely watched trial of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, with prosecutors expected to highlight Tsarnaev's hatred toward the United States.

The defense will likely focus on the role of the defendant's older brother.

Tsarnaev, 21, is facing the death penalty if convicted of carrying out with his older brother Tamerlan the dual bombings at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. Three people died in the bombings.

Tamerlan was killed in the massive manhunt that followed the bombings.

Tsarnaev's defense is expected to focus on the role of Tamerlan, a radicalized Muslim, who they say was the mastermind behind the attack, while highlighting Tsarnaev's integration into US society with his record of good high school attendance and popularity among his peers.

Jury selection ended Tuesday after a selection process lasting almost two months.

U.S. District Court Judge George O'Toole announced the 12 jurors and six alternates after the prosecution and defense exercised their preemptory challenges, narrowing down the pool of about 70 potential candidates.

"Jurors, you have now been selected as the trial jurors and alternates for the case," O'Toole told them after they took their seats in the juror box.

Tsarnaev, who was present at the court room wearing a dark jacket and light-coloured shirt with its collars left open, was engaged with his lawyers as they shuffled through papers and notes finalizing the list of candidates they excused from the juror pool.

Tsarnaev stood with his arms folded, head tilted and staring into the air as O'Toole told the jurors to reconvene in a back room for further instructions. The judge then told the courtroom that jurors would be sworn in Wednesday morning just before opening arguments begin.

Dzhokhar was a star of his high school's wresting team and was attending college at the time of the attack.

Defense attorney David Bruck has argued that Tsarnaev's "domination by, love for ... and submissiveness to his older brother" played a role in motivating him to take part in the attack.

The prosecution is seeking to eliminate any reference to the older brother in the first phase of the trial, asking O'Toole on Monday to focus on Tsarnaev's personal liability before a verdict is reached and allow the defence to present mitigating evidence such as the influence by the older brother only during the sentencing phase.

After Tamerlan was killed in the manhunt just days after the attack, Dzhokhar took refuge inside a small, covered boat parked in the back yard of a house in a Boston residential neighbourhood. Police opened fire on the boat and injured Dzhokhar after the owner tipped police that he suspected the fugitive was in it.

Prosecutors will highlight Tsarnaev's radicalized ideology by submitting photo images they say were written by him while he hid in the boat, to give insight into his motivation.

"The US government is killing our innocent civilians," Tsarnaev wrote, according to the indictment. "I can't stand to see such evil go unpunished. We Muslims are one body, you hurt one you hurt us all."

The defense is seeking to show the boat, which has bullet holes and blood on it, in full to jurors either by bringing the boat to the courthouse or taking the jury to see it.

"What the defense really wants the jury to see is the boat riddled with bullets," Assistant U.S. Attorney William Weinreb said Monday.

Prosecutors will show shocking images of the destruction carried out during the bombing including autopsy photos of bombing victims.

The bombing, which was the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil since the September 11, 2001, attacks, injured more than 260 people including dozens who lost limbs.

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