BOSTON (AP) — Dozens of victims of the Boston Marathon bombing settled into a courtroom Wednesday to watch Dzhokhar Tsarnaev go on trial for his life in the nation’s biggest terrorism trial since the Oklahoma City bombing nearly 20 years ago.
A shaggy-haired Tsarnaev, 21, sat at the defense table, wearing a gray suit jacket.
Just before the jury was brought in, the judge rejected a fourth request from Tsarnaev’s lawyers to move the case out of Boston.
Two dramatically different portraits of the former college student were expected to emerge in opening statements in federal court.
Was he a submissive, adoring younger brother who only followed directions given by his older, radicalized brother? Or was he a willing, active participant in the attacks?
About two dozen victims took up the entire left-hand side the courtroom, awaiting the start of the proceedings.
Among them were Heather Abbott and Marc Fucarile, each of whom lost a leg in the attack. None of the victims came in on crutches or in wheelchairs; all appeared to walk under their own power.
Also in the group were Denise and Bill Richard, the parents of 8-year-old Martin Richard, who died in the bombings.
Three people were killed and more than 260 were hurt when two pressure-cooker bombs exploded near the finish line seconds apart on April 15, 2013.
Tsarnaev’s lawyers have made it clear they will try to show that at the time of the attack, Tsarnaev, then 19, looked up to his older brother, Tamerlan, 26, and was heavily influenced by him. They plan to portray Tamerlan as the mastermind of the attack. He died in a shootout with police days after the bombings.
But prosecutors say Dzhokhar was an equal participant who acted of his own free will. He faces 30 charges in the bombings and the shooting death days later of a police officer from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Seventeen of the charges carry the possibility of the death penalty.
Security was expected to be extremely tight. During jury selection, dozens of police officers and federal security officers were stationed inside and outside the courthouse, armed Coast Guard boats patrolled Boston Harbor, and a side street leading to the courthouse was blocked.
Tsarnaev’s lawyers fought right up until the last minute to have the trial moved outside of Massachusetts, arguing that the emotional impact of the bombings ran too deep and too many people had personal connections to the case. Their requests were rejected by Judge George O’Toole Jr. and a federal appeals court.
A panel of 10 women and eight men was chosen Tuesday to hear the case after two long months, interrupted repeatedly by snowstorms and the requests to move the trial.
The trial will be split into two phases — one to decide guilt or innocent, the other to determine punishment. If Tsarnaev is convicted, the jury will decide whether he gets life in prison or death.
The trial is expected to last three to four months.
The list of witnesses remains sealed, but among those expected to testify are first responders who treated the wounded, marathon spectators and victims who were badly injured in the explosions.
Attorney Judy Clarke, one of the nation’s foremost death penalty specialists, was expected to deliver the opening statement for Tsarnaev.
Clarke has saved a string of high-profile clients from the death penalty, including Atlanta Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph; Unabomber Ted Kaczynski; and Jared Loughner, the man who killed six people and gravely wounded then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in a 2011 shooting in Tucson, Arizona.