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Boston Marathon bomber apologizes to victims; is sentenced to death

Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev sits in federal court in Boston in this courtroom sketch. More than 30 victims of the Boston Marathon bombing and their family members are expected to describe the attack's impact on their lives before a judge formally sentences Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death. [Jane Flavell Collins via AP]
Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev sits in federal court in Boston in this courtroom sketch. More than 30 victims of the Boston Marathon bombing and their family members are expected to describe the attack's impact on their lives before a judge formally sentences Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death. [Jane Flavell Collins via AP]
Published Jun. 25, 2015

BOSTON — Moments before a judge sentenced him to death, Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev broke more than two years of silence Wednesday and apologized to the victims and their loved ones for the first time.

"I pray for your relief, for your healing," the 21-year-old former college student said haltingly in his Russian accent after rising to his feet in the hushed federal courtroom.

After Tsarnaev said his piece, U.S. District Judge George O'Toole Jr. quoted Shakespeare's line: "The evil that men do lives after them. The good is oft interred with their bones."

"So it will be for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev," the judge said, adding, "What will be remembered is that you murdered and maimed innocent people and that you did it willfully and intentionally."

Tsarnaev looked down and rubbed his hands together as the judge pronounced his fate: execution.

The outcome of the proceedings was never in doubt: The judge was required under law to impose the jury's death sentence for the April 15, 2013, attack, which authorities said was retaliation for U.S. wars in Muslim lands and that killed three people and wounded more than 260. An MIT police officer also was killed while Tsarnaev and his brother fled.

The only suspense was whether Tsarnaev would say anything when offered the chance to speak. Would he show remorse? Or would he make a political statement and seek to justify the attack?

The apology came after about three hours of 24 victims and survivors lashing out at him and urging him to show some remorse. His five-minute address was peppered with religious references and asking that Allah have mercy upon him and his dead brother and partner in crime, 26-year-old Tamerlan. He made no mention of the motive for the bombing, though he admitted he carried it out with his brother, who died in the getaway.

He paused several times as if struggling to maintain composure and faced the judge while speaking but addressed the victims.

Outside, some bombing survivors doubted Tsarnaev's sincerity.

But one survivor, Henry Borgard, said: "I was actually really happy that he made the statement. I have forgiven him. I have come to a place of peace, and I genuinely hope that he does, as well."

U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said Tsarnaev left important things unsaid: "He didn't renounce terrorism; he didn't renounce violent extremism."

Tsarnaev will probably be sent to the death row unit at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind. It could take years or even decades for his appeals to work their way through the courts.

At his sentencing, a somber-looking Tsarnaev sat with his chair turned toward the lectern from which the victims spoke. He picked at his beard and gazed downward, only occasionally looking at the victims.

Patricia Campbell, the mother of 29-year-old Krystle Campbell who died in the attack, looked across the room at Tsarnaev.

"What you did to my daughter is disgusting," she said. "I don't know what to say to you. I think the jury did the right thing."

Rebekah Gregory, a Texas woman who lost a leg in the bombing, defiantly told Tsarnaev she is not his victim.

"While your intention was to destroy America, what you have really accomplished is actually quite the opposite — you've unified us," she said, staring directly at Tsarnaev as he looked down. "We are Boston strong, we are America strong, and choosing to mess with us was a terrible idea."

Bill Richard, whose 8-year-old son Martin was the youngest person killed in the bombing, noted that his family would have preferred that Tsarnaev receive a life sentence so that he could contemplate his crimes.

Richard said his family has chosen love, kindness and peace, adding, "That is what makes us different than him."