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Man testifies to seeing Boston bombing's youngest victim dead

05 March 2015, 20:21

Boston - A father of three whose son was badly injured in the Boston Marathon bombing recalled in court on Thursday that he saw people trying in vain to revive 8-year-old Martin Richard, the youngest person killed in the attack.

Alan Hern, testifying on the second day of the federal trial of Dzokhar Tsarnaev, described the deafening noises and plumes of smoke that erupted from twin pressure-cooker bombs near the race finish line on April 15, 2013. The 21-year-old defendant is accused of setting the bombs that killed three people and injured 264.

Also read: Two Germans to be caned, jailed for train graffiti

Hern, who had traveled to Boston with his family from their home in Martinez, California, to watch his wife run, told jurors he waited while bystanders administered first aid to his 11-year-old son, whose legs had been badly injured, and then loaded him into an ambulance.

"The last thing I did see was Martin Richard on the sidewalk, there were two people trying to revive him still, but I could see his eyes clearly and I didn't think he was alive," said Hern, a high school football coach.

Earlier, Boston Police Officer Frank Chiola testified that he had been standing near the finish line when the first bomb went off and heard the second detonate as he was running to the scene.

"I saw blood everywhere. Shock. People's faces. You couldn't tell who was alive, who was dead," said Chiola, who went on to perform CPR on 29-year-old Krystle Campbell, who also died. "It was chaos."

Tsarnaev could be sentenced to death if convicted of charges that also include the fatal shooting of a police officer three days after the attack as the defendant and his 26-year-old brother, Tamerlan, attempted to flee the city. Tamerlan Tsarnaev died later that night when his younger brother inadvertently ran him over with a car while trying to flee a gunbattle with police.

Death penalty trials play out in two phases, with the jury first establishing whether the defendant is guilty and then, if the defendant is convicted, whether a death sentence is warranted.

Admission of guilt, but no plea

In opening statements on Wednesday, one of Tsarnaev's lawyers said her client was responsible for the attacks, but did not withdraw his plea of not guilty.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys have argued during the first two days of the trial over what sort of evidence may be admitted during the first part of the trial.

Defense attorneys are trying to prove that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was the driving force behind the attack, with his younger brother playing a secondary role, in hopes of persuading the jury to sentence their client to life in prison rather than death.

U.S. District Judge George O'Toole on Wednesday said he would accept only limited testimony about the older brother during the guilt phase of the trial.

On Thursday morning, defense lawyers challenged some of Wednesday's victim testimony, arguing that description of the surgeries that victims went through after losing legs was irrelevant to guilt.

O'Toole rejected that request as well, saying the testimony "did not go out of bounds."

The jury on Wednesday saw graphic video of the bloody, chaotic moments following the two bomb blasts, when emergency workers rushed to apply tourniquets to dozens of wounded people.

In addition to Campbell and Martin, Chinese graduate student Lingzi Lu, 23, died in the blasts.

Another survivor on Thursday testified that he remembered being bumped by a person who he realized in retrospect was Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Jeff Bauman told jurors he later noticed the man had left a backpack in the crowd.

"He just looked very suspicious. He didn't look like anybody that was there. He wasn't having fun, he wasn't watching the race," said Bauman, who lost both legs. The next day, when he woke up in a hospital, Bauman said he immediately told a friend that he had spotted a suspect and worked with a police sketch artist.

"It was kind of a relief," Bauman said, "to know that I got to help out and do my part."

- Reuters


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