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BOSTON — Wearing street clothes, a silver cross dangling from her neck, Sister Helen Prejean, a Roman Catholic nun and prominent opponent of the death penalty, testified on Monday that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the convicted Boston Marathon bomber, had expressed sympathy for his victims. . . .

In a brief cross-examination, the prosecution instead underscored that Sister Prejean is based in New Orleans and is a nationally recognized opponent of the death penalty — that is, a witness from outside Massachusetts who has a strong bias.

“Their cross-examination was to point out what was obvious: She’s against the death penalty, and she’d be up there arguing against it even if it were Adolf Hitler,” said David Hoose, a defense lawyer in Northampton, Mass., who has argued death penalty cases.

Still, Mr. Hoose said, Sister Prejean was a valuable witness because she carries moral authority and because if Mr. Tsarnaev felt any regret, she could convey sincerity about it better than he could.

“His lawyers probably felt this is the best we can do in terms of expressing remorse,” Mr. Hoose said. “It may not be enough for some jurors, but maybe there is one juror who was looking for that, who will say, ‘O.K., that’s enough for me.’ ”

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