"For the first time, the defense has begun to explain in depth why a once-popular captain of his high-school wrestling team chose to plant a deadly bomb in a crowd at the marathon ..." - Jennifer Levitz and Jon Kamp, "Dzhokhar Tsarvaev's Lawyers Argue Against Death Penalty," in The Wall Street Journal, April 27, 2015. Here is the article.
In the sentencing part of the hearing, the defense's strategy seems to be two-fold.
One is to position and package the death penalty as "too good" for this type of miscreant. Better, he rot in solitary confinement for the rest of his life. Photos were shown in court of that grim environment.
The other part is to depict Dzhokhar Tsarvaev as a lost boy. He had an emotionally unstable childhood, somewhat nomadic. His mother suffered from mental illness. His late hotheaded brother dominated him, allegedly demanding total obedience.
The lost-boy characterization has to become sticky with the jurors. But the disconnect may be too huge. There was the young immigrant who was becoming very Americanized in high school. Then there was the calculating domestic terrorist who set off explosives in a densely populated area. As he was doing that, children were in his eye range.
If the defense does obtain a verdict for life in that Colorado maximum security prison, they may not be doing their client a favor. Such lockouts drive even well-put-together people insane. The odds are that even with close monitoring he will commit suicide.
That might be exactly what his victims and their families are hoping for. It would replace a death sentence which, given so many appeals, wouldn't take place for years. Each appeal would have heavy media coverage.
Locked away, he would be forgotten. Then one day there would be breaking news that he offed himself. A collective hurrah would go through America. Then the nation can move on.