The Boston Marathon bombing trial reaches its decisive moment this week. Closing arguments will take place Monday, jury deliberations should be well underway by Tuesday, and we could see a verdict as early as Wednesday or Thursday since the government’s case was so powerful and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s attorneys conceded his culpability during opening statements. The defendant did not testify on his own behalf and it is almost inconceivable that he will be acquitted on all of the most serious charges against him — the charges for which the Justice Department is seeking the death penalty.
If Tsarnaev is convicted it means the terrorism trial would enter its penalty phase as early as Friday, just days before the second anniversary of the bombing. During this phase federal prosecutors will present evidence of “aggravating” circumstances to try to convince jurors to recommend a death sentence. Defense attorneys will present “mitigating” evidence as they seek to convince at least one juror to spare their client’s life. This is where the jurors, at last, will see a truly contested fight in court, for Tsarnaev’s lawyers have said for months that their strategy is to seek mercy from the panel by arguing that their infamous client, the Rolling Stone cover boy, is less culpable than his older brother, Tamerlan, who was killed in the final assault on the brothers.