WBZ-TV’s Jim Armstrong reports that Tsarnaev expressed “gratitude to Allah” and thanked his attorneys, before apologizing to the victims and to the survivors.
“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, breaking more than two years of public silence.
To the victims, he said: “I pray for your relief, for your healing.”
It was a five-minute address peppered with religious references and praise of Allah. He paused several times, looking as if he was trying to remain composed. He stood and faced the judge while speaking, but spoke of the victims.
Before Wednesday, Tsarnaev, 21, had said nothing in court since his arrest more than two years ago, offering neither remorse nor explanation.
Tsarnaev spoke after a procession of victims and their loved ones lashed out at him one by one 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.
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.”
Twenty-four people in all gave so-called victim impact statements at the sentencing in federal court.
The outcome was a foregone conclusion: U.S. District Judge George O’Toole Jr. 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. A recent CBS News poll showed a majority of Bostonians are against Tsarnaev paying with his life.
McWatters, Campbell’s best friend, had urged Tsarnaev to show remorse to discourage other jihadis from killing people in similar attacks.
“You can save them from these cowardly acts if you really have an ounce of regret or remorse,” she said.
In May, the federal jury condemned the former college student to die for 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.
Tsarnaev wore a dark sport jacket with a collared shirt and no tie Wednesday. He appeared impassive as he chatted with his lawyers before the start of the hearing.
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, looking 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.
Bill Richard, whose 8-year-old son Martin was the youngest person killed in the bombing, said Tsarnaev could have backed out of the plot and reported his brother to authorities.
Instead, Richard said, “He chose hate. He chose destruction. He chose death. This is all on him.”
Tsarnaev, seated between his lawyers, looked down as Richard spoke.
Richard noted that his family would have preferred that Tsarnaev receive a life sentence so that he could have had “a lifetime to reconcile with himself what he did that day.”
Richard said his family has chosen love, kindness and peace, adding: “That is what makes us different than him.”
After the victim statements were read, Armstrong reported that prosecutor Bill Weinreb reviewed the case.
Tsarnaev’s lawyers admitted he participated in the bombings but argued that Tamerlan was the driving force in the plot.
In a message he scrawled in the boat he was found hiding in, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev said the attack was retaliation against the U.S. for its wars in Muslim countries.
Some victims Wednesday described psychological injuries invisible to the world, but all too real and debilitating to them.