Boston bomber faces victims' families and says he is sorry
Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev last night apologised for the irreparable harm he's caused and said that he prays for the victims.
In an emotional speech, Tsarnaev addressed the court for the first time at his sentencing hearing.
He gave a five-minute speech with a Russian accent, peppered with religious references and praise of Allah.
The 21-year-old 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.
He says he listened to everyone who spoke on the witness stand and he noted the strength, patience and dignity of the survivors. He also said he's sorry for the lives he's taken.
Legal experts had said Tsarnaev had little or nothing to gain by speaking since the judge is required to impose the death sentence recommended by the jury. But some wondered whether Tsarnaev would apologise or even make a political statement.
For a few brief moments Tsarnaev smiled as he was led into court to be formally sentenced to death.
But the 21-year-old's smiles quickly faded as the hearing began and one-by-one Tsarnaev's victims stood up to describe the pain he had caused them.
"We have no words to express what today means to us," said Bill Richard, whose eight-year-old son Martin was the youngest person killed in the blasts.
His daughter Jane lost a leg in the explosions while his wife was left blind in one eye.
Mr Richard, who testified emotionally during the trial earlier this year, said Tsarnaev could have stopped his older brother Tamerlan from going through with the attack in April 2013.
"He chose to accompany his brother and participate in this hate," Mr Richard said.
"He chose hate. He chose destruction. He chose death," he added.
The Richard family said in the past they would prefer Tsarnaev to be sentenced to life in prison rather than face the death penalty because the legal appeals against execution would keep him in the news.
"We would prefer to have a lifetime to reconcile what he did," Mr Richard said. "But he will have less than that . . . On the day he meets his maker may he understand what he has done and may justice and peace be found."
Tsarnaev, who was 19 at the time of the attack, appeared to be only half-listening as Mr Richard and other survivors addressed him in court.
A jury sentenced him to death in May after finding him guilty of all 30 charges against him, including use of a weapon of mass destruction.
Judge George O'Toole will formally hand down the sentence today but it could be more than a decade before the execution is carried out.
Tsarnaev will have the chance to appeal to several courts including the Supreme Court before he is put to death.
Among the families who stood up to address him in the Boston Court were the parents of Krystle Campbell, a 29-year-old restaurant manager who also died in the explosions.
"You went down the wrong road," Patricia Campbell, Krystle's mother, told Tsarnaev. "I know life is hard, but the choices you made were despicable and what you did to my daughter was disgusting."
The same federal jury that earlier this year found Tsarnaev guilty, voted in May to sentence him to death by lethal injection. Judge O'Toole sanctioned the punishment.
Ed Fucarile, whose son Marc lost his right leg in the attack, stared at the bomber as he read a statement.
"The first time I saw you in this courtroom, you were smirking at all the victims for your unspeakable cowardly act. You don't seem to be smirking today," Mr Fucarile said.
Tsarnaev, who appeared in court dressed in a dark sport jacket and open-collared shirt, looked down and showed no emotion during the hearing.
Tsarnaev's trial brought back some of Boston's darkest living memories as jurors saw videos of the bombs' chaotic aftermath on April 15, 2013.