Jurors in the death penalty trial of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on Wednesday were shown video of him making an obscene gesture as well as holding his fingers in the shape of “V” to a surveillance camera in a courthouse holding cell three months after he was arrested in the terror attack.
A prosecutor had shown a picture of Tsarnaev making the obscene gesture to the jury in US District Court in Boston at the end of her opening statement in the penalty phase of the trial on Tuesday, underlining her argument that he was “unconcerned, unrepentant, and unchanged” after the attack.
On Wednesday, video of the incident, which happened on July 10, 2013, was shown to jurors at the request of Tsarnaev’s defense team.
Tsarnaev was being held in a cell prior to his arraignment in court on the charges for which he was convicted earlier this month.
Even though the sideways “V” sign can be an offensive gesture in some countries, at least one friend of Tsarnaev’s said he doubts Tsarneav meant it in that way.
David Zimble said that, among Tsarnaev’s circle of friends, that sideways V sign was sometimes used as a playful gesture — more of a variation of the 1960s “peace” sign — and that it did not mean anything profane or political if used.
He said sometimes friends used this as a goofy gesture in photos.
In court, Gary Oliviera, a US Marshals Service employee, said he was monitoring surveillance cameras including the one in Cell 4, where Tsarnaev was placed. He testified that he saw Tsarnaev display his middle finger and that he reported it to supervisors. He was ordered to write a report two days later, he said.
For the first time since the second phase of the trial began, the defense cross-examined a prosecution witness. The jury was shown a two-minute snippet of video that also showed Tsarnaev before making the gesture.
The longer sequence showed Tsarnaev fixing his unkempt hair while looking into the reflective camera lens, putting up his index and middle finger in a “V” — and then displaying his middle finger alone.
During cross-examination, defense attorney Miriam Conrad called the gesture a “V sign.” US District Judge George A. O’Toole Jr. ordered her not to describe Tsarnaev’s actions, ruling that the video spoke for itself.
Tsarnaev has been convicted in the April 15, 2013, bombing near the Marathon finish line in which three people were killed and more than 260 others were wounded. He has also been convicted in the slaying of an MIT police officer several days later. Prosecutors say his older brother, Tamerlan, was his partner in the violence.
The jury earlier this month determined that he was guilty of 30 charges, including 17 that carry the death penalty. The jury is now in the second day of the second phase of the trial, one in which they will decide whether he gets the death penalty or life in prison.