Lawyers for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev rested their case Monday to save him from the death penalty, calling a famous death penalty opponent as their final witness to testify that Tsarnaev told her, "No one deserves to suffer like they did."
Sister Helen Prejean, who was made famous in the 1995 movie "Dead Man Walking" starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn, met with Tsarnaev five times since March at the request of the defense. She said she could hear in his voice that he regretted his role in the 2013 attacks, which left three people dead and more than 250 wounded.
"I had every reason to think that he was taking it in and that he was genuinely sorry for what he did," Prejean testified Monday.
The defense team called more than 40 witnesses during the penalty phase of his trial in the hope of convincing the jury that Tsarnaev's late older brother concocted the plot and that Tsarnaev deserves life in prison instead of execution.
His teachers recalled a sweet, hardworking boy, while his Russian family members wept as they described a kind child with an infectious smile.
A psychiatrist said Tsarnaev's father struggled with severe post-traumatic stress disorder, while others described a mother who became obsessed with religion.
From the beginning of the trial, Tsaranev's lawyers admitted he participated in the bombings but said his older brother, Tamerlan, was the mastermind. The brothers placed two pressure-cooker bombs near the finish line of the marathon April 15, 2013. Days later, the brothers also fatally shot a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer in his cruiser.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was convicted of all 30 charges against him during the first phase of the trial, including 17 that carry the possibility of the death penalty.
During the penalty phase, Tsarnaev's lawyers urged the jury to consider Tsarnaev's young age at the time of the bombings — 19 — and his dysfunctional family as mitigating factors and grounds to spare his life.
Friends and family members said 26-year-old Tamerlan embraced a radical form of Islam and became a domineering influence on Dzhokhar.
The Tsarnaevs — ethnic Chechens — had lived in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan and the volatile Dagestan region of Russia, near Chechnya, before moving to the U.S. in 2002, when Dzhokhar was 8.
Prosecutors had argued that Prejean's testimony should be excluded, but a judge ultimately decided to allow it.
The Roman Catholic nun began prison ministry in 1981 in New Orleans and corresponded with Patrick Sonnier, a death row inmate who had been convicted of killing two teenagers.
She became Sonnier's spiritual adviser and wrote a best-selling book on her experiences called "Dead Man Walking," which was later turned into a movie.
During their case, prosecutors called bombing victims who gave heartbreaking testimony about watching loved ones die or having their legs blown off in the blasts. They portrayed Tsarnaev as an equal partner with his brother in the plan and someone so heartless that he placed a bomb behind a group of children, killing 8-year-old Martin Richard.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed days after the bombings when he was shot during a gun battle with police and Dzhokhar ran him over during a chaotic getaway. Dzhokhar was later captured hiding in a dry-docked boat.