The first trial of the Boston Marathon Bombings began on Monday, more than a year after the incident, and the first defendant, Azamat Tazhayakov, is claiming innocence.
Tazhayakov, a 20-year-old friend of the bombing suspects, was accused of obstruction of justice. Tazhayakov, along with another friend, Dias Kadyrbayev, took a backpack containing fireworks from surviving bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s dorm room after seeing his picture on the news.
Although not directly a part of the bombings, prosecutors believe that Tazhayakov’s removal of the fireworks was part of an intentional obstruction of justice.
“My son is 100 percent innocent,” Tazhayakov’s father told NBC News. “There is no doubt about it.”
Tsarnaev is accused of planning and carrying out the April 2013 bombing at the annual Boston Marathon, which killed three people and injured over 260 more. After the bombings, a backpack filled with explosives, allegedly belonging to Tsarnaev, was found in a landfill.
Although Tazhayakov is accused of playing a role in Tsarnaev’s crime, his lead defense attorney claims that Tazhayakov is innocent.
“My client has great respect for the people of Boston. Even after the arrest, he had a lot of respect,” Bukh said. “He is really sorry for the people who suffered, who died. He loved Boston, and the people of Boston. He never had the intent to hurt anyone.”
During the first day of Tazhayakov’s trial, Tsarnaev came into the spotlight nearly as much as his friend who was actually on trial. Immediately following the bombing, Tsarnaev texted Tazhayakov saying “Don’t go thinking its me, you cooked bastard.” But Tazhayakov suspected that it was Tsarnaev regardless, and proceeded to remove the fireworks from his dorm room.
A series of text messages that followed between the two friends were highlighted in the courtroom. Rather than focusing on Tazhayakov’s close relationship with Tsarnaev, the prosecution attempted to sway the jury emotionally, with upsetting facts about the deaths that resulted from the tragedy.
“It’s not about the bombing,” defense lawyer Nicholas Wooldridge said in the courtroom. “. . . Don’t get sidetracked. Stay clear and focused on the real evidence in this case.”
The Tsarnaev trial is expected to last about three weeks, and is expected to begin in November. He could receive up to twenty-five years in prison if convicted.