Friend of Boston bomber due back in court as penalty phase continues

BOSTON - A college friend of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, in tears on the witness stand last week as she described the 21-year-old who faces a possible death sentence, is due back in court on Monday as the high-profile trial resumes.

Relatives of the ethnic Chechen who was found guilty last month of killing three people and injuring 264 with a pair of homemade pressure-cooker bombs in the April 15, 2013, attack may also testify as Tsarnaev's lawyers try to persuade a jury to spare his life during the penalty phase of the trial.

Defence attorneys are arguing that their client, the younger of a pair of brothers who carried out one of the highest-profile attacks on US soil since Sept. 11, 2001, was a secondary player in a scheme hatched by his 26-year-old brother,Tamerlan, who died on April 19, 2013, hours after the pair shot dead a police officer as they prepared to flee Boston.

Alexa Guevara, a 21-year-old college friend of Tsarnaev's from the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth last week wept as she told the jury that he had been supportive of her dreams to go to art school and more of a "decent" person than many of the men she met at school.

Tsarnaev's lawyers are expected to call about another week's worth of witnesses before the same jury that found their client guilty takes up the question of whether to sentence him to death or life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Prosecutors pursuing a death sentence contend that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was an equal partner to his brother in the bombings. They have said Tsarnaev lived a double life, pretending to be a typical college student while secretly watching al Qaeda propaganda online and preparing to bomb the race.

Martin Richard, 8, Chinese exchange student Lu Lingzi, 23, and restaurant manager Krystle Campbell, 29, died in the bombing. The Tsarnaev brothers shot dead Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer Sean Collier three days later.

Richard's parents and Collier's sister have urged prosecutors to drop their pursuit of a death sentence.