There was little unexpected in prosecutor Nadine Pellegrini’s opening statement. She displayed pictures of the four dead victims, repeatedly calling them “beautiful” and noting that none would ever see their 30th birthdays. She described the grief their families had felt every day since they’d been murdered. She ticked off a list of aggravating factors that might convince the jurors that Tsarnaev deserves to die—among them, the planned and premeditated nature of the bombing, the “heinous, cruel, and depraved” method used to kill, the excruciating physical pain the victims would have endured in their final moments, and the vulnerability and innocence embodied by 8-year-old Martin Richard.
Pellegrini did have one surprise up her sleeve. As she drew to her conclusion, she informed the jury that on July 10, 2013, about three months after the bombing, Tsarnaev had been left alone in a room with a camera (it appeared to be a holding cell) here inside the courthouse. “He had one last message to send,” she said tartly, as she unveiled a big poster. It was an enlarged photo of Tsarnaev—wearing orange prison scrubs and scowling furiously—as he flipped his middle finger directly at a ceiling camera in the cell.
We don’t know if he’d just been denied lunch, or if a guard had just elbowed him in the stomach and thrown him against a wall. But without any context, this was an ugly portrait of the defendant. It sat before the jury as Pellegrini gave her final assessment of him. Tsarnaev, she asserted, was “unconcerned, unrepentant, and unchanged.” He was “without remorse.”