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Boston Marathon bomber says he’s sorry for the first time

/ 08:28 AM June 25, 2015
FILE - In this Dec. 18, 2014, courtroom sketch, Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev sits in federal court in Boston for a final hearing before his trial begins in January. 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. Tsarnaev’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, June 24, 2015, in U.S. District Court. AP PHOTO

FILE – In this Dec. 18, 2014, courtroom sketch, Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev sits in federal court in Boston for a final hearing before his trial begins in January. 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. Tsarnaev’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, June 24, 2015, in U.S. District Court. AP PHOTO

BOSTON— In a startling turn, Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev rose to his feet and apologized to the victims and their loved ones for the first time Wednesday just before a judge formally sentenced him to death.

“I am sorry for the lives that I’ve taken, for the suffering that I’ve caused you, for the damage that I’ve done — irreparable damage,” the 21-year-old college student said in his Russian accent, breaking more than two years of public silence.

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To the victims, he said: “I pray for your relief, for your healing.”

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 often interred with their bones.”

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“So it will be for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev,” the judge said, telling Tsarnaev that no one will remember that his teachers were fond of him, that his friends found him fun to be with or that he showed compassion to disabled people.

“What will be remembered is that you murdered and maimed innocent people, and that you did it willfully and intentionally. You did it on purpose,” O’Toole said.

“I sentence you to the penalty of death by execution,” he said.

Boston Marathon bombing victim Erika Brannock, foreground left, and her mother Carol Downing, foreground right, walk past demonstrators outside federal court in Boston, Wednesday, June 24, 2015. AP

Boston Marathon bombing victim Erika Brannock, foreground left, and her mother Carol Downing, foreground right, walk past demonstrators outside federal court in Boston, Wednesday, June 24, 2015. AP

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

The apology came after Tsarnaev listened impassively for about three hours as a procession of victims and their loved ones lashed out at him for his “cowardly” and “disgusting” acts.

“He can’t possibly have had a soul to do such a horrible thing,” said Karen Rand McWatters, who lost a leg in the attack and whose best friend, 29-year-old Krystle Campbell, was killed.

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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 that killed three people and wounded more than 260.

The only real suspense was whether Tsarnaev would say anything when given a chance to speak near the end of the proceedings.

Until Wednesday, he had said almost nothing publicly since his arrest more than two years ago, offering neither remorse nor explanation.

During his trial, he showed a trace of emotion only once, when he cried while his Russian aunt was on the stand. And the only evidence of any remorse came from Sister Helen Prejean, a prominent death penalty opponent, who quoted him as saying of the victims: “No one deserves to suffer like they did.”

In condemning him to death, the jury cited his lack of remorse as one of many factors.

His apology was a five-minute address peppered with religious references and praise of Allah. He paused several times, looking as if he was trying to maintain his composure.

Outside court, some bombing survivors said they doubted Tsarnaev’s sincerity, given his lack of remorse during the trial.

“It really does not change anything for me,” Scott Weisberg said.

But another 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.”

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. AP FILE PHOTO/FBI

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. AP FILE PHOTO/FBI

Tsarnaev will probably be sent to the death row unit in the state of Indiana. It could take years or even decades for appeals to work their way through the courts.

In May, the jury condemned the former college student to die for joining his older brother, Tamerlan, in setting off the two pressure-cooker bombs near the finish line and in killing an MIT police officer as they fled. Tamerlan, 26, was killed during the getaway.

A somber-looking Tsarnaev, wearing a dark sport jacket with a collared shirt and no tie, sat between his lawyers, his chair turned toward the lectern from which the victims spoke. He picked at his beard and gazed downward most of the time, only occasionally looking at the victims.

Campbell’s mother, Patricia Campbell, was the first person to address the court. She looked across the room at Tsarnaev, seated about 20 feet away, and spoke directly to him.

“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. So how’s that for your VICTIM impact statement?”

Several victims condemned Tsarnaev for coming to the U.S. as an immigrant from Russia, enjoying the benefits of living here and then attacking American citizens.

“He is a leech abusing the privilege of American freedom, and he spit in the face of the American dream,” said Jennifer Rogers, an older sister of slain MIT Officer Sean Collier.

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TAGS: apology, Boston Marathon, Boston Marathon bombing, Death penalty, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Execution, Justice, Trial
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