In a desperate attempt to ward off a death sentence for their client, attorneys for Boston Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev ended their case by calling the Roman Catholic nun who wrote the anti-capital punishment book “Dead Man Walking” to the stand.
Sure enough, Sister Helen Prejean testified that Tsarnaev, who along with his brother Tamerlan murdered three people, including an eight-year-old boy, and the wounded of 264 others, including 17 people who lost legs, was “absolutely sincere” about expressing remorse to her over his actions.
Prejean ignored the fact that Tsarnaev’s behavior in court has reflected anything but remorse. According to the New York Times, he has “slouched in his chair and has seldom looked at witnesses.” NBC News reported that prosecutors alleged in court that Tsarnaev wrote “defiant” messages when he was treated at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center following his arrest. Assistant U.S. Attorney William Weinreb told the judge, “Two days when he lay in the bed in Beth Israel, he wrote one defiant note after another.”
Prejean met with Tsarnaev five times in prison, and claimed she had studied the Koran and Islam so she could establish a rapport with him.
“He said emphatically, no one deserves to suffer like they did,” she said.
When defense attorney Miriam Conrad asked dramatically how Tsarnaev’s voice sounded as he claimed he was sorry, Prejean said theatrically, “It had pain in it, actually, when he said what he did about nobody deserves that. I had every reason to think he was taking it in and he was genuinely sorry for what he did.”
When Conrad continued by asking the nun if she would lie to the jury and tell them Tsarnaev was remorseful if he were not, Prejean responded, “No, I would not.”
Last month, Tsarnaev was convicted of all charges; the prosecution now seeks the death penalty, while the defense wants life in prison without parole. Now that the defense has finished its case, the two sides will present their closing arguments on Wednesday, which will trigger jury deliberations.
Judge George A. O’Toole, Jr. allowed Prejean to testify over prosecution objections because he was concerned a refusal would prompt an appeal of the case. One single nay vote from the jury would forestall a death penalty sentence.
Prejean, asked if she saw the bomber in the court, boomed, “I do. Right there,” then smiled at him. She asked if she could offer testimony about discussions with other prisoners, and when she was rebuffed, smiled and said patronizingly, “I didn’t think so. Just checking it out. O.K.”
In 2002, Prejean protested the death penalty given to brutal murderer Tracy Housel, who confessed to 17 murders, saying, “Years of confinement have created a man of reflection. Granted [he is] a man who has done a terrible crime… But do we have to freeze-frame him in that time?”