Tsarnaev killed and maimed but did he flip off America?

Apparently, prosecutors believe that whether Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should be put to death for murdering innocent people at the Boston Marathon in 2013 should hinge somewhat on this photograph they showed as they wrapped up their opening arguments in the sentencing phase of Tsarnaev’s trial this week.

The testimony is continuing this afternoon.

Department of Justice

“If a picture is worth a thousand words, what’s a middle finger worth?” the Boston Globe’s Kevin Cullen asks.

It came after weeks of gruesome images, any of which could be considered enough to warrant the death penalty by anyone predisposed to render such a sentence. It came after a day of awful testimony from survivors.

But they’ve gotten pushed off to the side.

“He was flipping off America,” Cullen wrote today.

Maybe, but we don’t execute people in this country for that.

The government played the photo as a gambler might play a last card, believing it will win the hand, in this case getting 12 people to sentence Tsarnaev to death.

As the jurors and everybody else in the courtroom took in the photo, Pellegrini supplied the caption.

“This is Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Unconcerned, unrepentant, and unchanged. Without remorse, he remains untouched by the grief and the loss that he caused,” she said. “He remains the unrepentant killer he is.”

That lack of remorse is crucial if the government is to convince each and every one of the 12 jurors that death is the appropriate punishment. If only one of them decides he shouldn’t be executed, he won’t be.

It’s an interesting play to emotions, which ignores the wishes of some of those who lost their loved ones in the bombing.

“This is a deeply personal issue and we can speak only for ourselves,” Bill and Denise Richard, whose young son Martin was among those killed, wrote to the court before they’re testimony yesterday.

“However, it is clear that peace of mind was taken not just from us, but from all Americans,” they wrote. “We honor those who were lost and wish continued strength for all those who were injured. We believe that now is the time to turn the page, end the anguish, and look toward a better future — for us, for Boston, and for the country.”

“Whenever someone speaks out against the death penalty, they are challenged to imagine how they would feel if someone they love were killed,” Jennifer Lemmerman, whose brother, MIT police officer Sean Collier, was killed wrote on Facebook. “I’ve been given that horrible perspective and I can say that my position has only strengthened,’” she wrote. She’s against the death penalty.

Karen Odom, whose husband had arteries severed by shrapnel doesn’t have anything against the death penalty, but wants Tsarnaev in prison for life.

“We just think the death penalty is too good for him. We’d rather see him in jail forever,” she said.

Like the rest of America, the victims are divided on the question. So, too, probably, are jurors. That’s where the picture in the jail cell comes in, Cullen notes.

But when they retire to that room in the courthouse, to decide whether Dzhokhar Tsarnaev lives or dies, jurors will have that photo of him, flipping the bird at the camera in his cell.

Flipping the bird at them, at us, at everybody who didn’t share his obscenely twisted view that it was somehow a proportionate response to some perceived grievance to put a bomb in back of a bunch of kids. Flipping off the dead.

Justice is blind. It’s also emotional, particularly in matters of deciding who should live and whom should we kill.

Richard Johnson, who’s drawing the trial for the Washington Post, says he doesn’t consider himself a bloodthirsty person. But after a day of testimony, he found it all nearly too much.

Towards the end of the day William Campbell Jr., father of 29-year-old Krystie Marie Campbell, a deceased bombing victim, took the stand.

He attempted to answer the questions from the prosecution as he had probably rehearsed doing, but even two years on talking about the daughter he had loved and lost, obviously was physically straining on him.

At times as he became lost in some reminiscence, his head would drop as he tried desperately to keep it together. At the end of his time on the stand the prosecution lawyer asked him one final question.

What will you miss most about your daughter? It would have been easy to use some big honest answer – the grandchildren I’ll never have – the life she will not live, but instead Mr. Campbell’s eyes glazed again then he dropped his head, searching for that one key thing.

When he told the court the one true thing that HE would miss. “I miss my hug every day, he said, she never left the house without giving me a hug.”

It was compelling testimony, of course. But overseas — and with this afternoon’s release of the image, domestically too — it’s all being overshadowed by a finger.