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Boston bomber says sorry for the first time before being formally sentenced to death

21 year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will receive his formal death sentence later today.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
Image: FBI

Updated 22.40pm

MOMENTS BEFORE A judge sentenced him to death, Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev broke more than two years of silence and apologized to the victims and their loved ones for the first time. “I pray for your relief, for your healing,” he said.

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 former college student spoke 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 often interred with their bones.”

“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.

Tsarnaev looked down and rubbed his hands together as the judge pronounced his fate: execution, the punishment decided on by the jury last month for the attack that killed three people and wounded more than 260.

The apology came after Tsarnaev listened impassively for about three hours as a procession of 24 victims and survivors lashed out at him for his “cowardly” and “disgusting” acts and urged him to show some remorse at long last.

Tsarnaev assured the victims he was paying attention.

All those who got up on that witness stand and that podium relayed to us, to me — I was listening — the suffering that was and the hardship that still is, with strength and with patience and with dignity.

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 authorities said was retaliation for U.S. wars in Muslim lands.

‘What you did to my daughter is disgusting’

Three people were killed and more than 260 were injured when the brothers detonated two pressure-cooker bombs near the finish line.

“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 Tsarnev 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 victim impact statements at the sentencing in federal court.

Boston Marathon Bombing Rebekah Gregory arriving at Tsarnaev's trial in March Source: AP/Press Association Images

Tsarnaev (21) was convicted of 30 federal charges for planning and carrying out the terror attack with his older brother, Tamerlan.

Days after the bombings, in the midst of a massive manhunt, the brothers killed a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer and engaged in a wild gun battle with police in the Boston suburb of Watertown.

Tamerlan died after being shot by police and run over by Dzhokhar as the younger brother escaped in a stolen car.

Tsarnaev’s lawyers admitted he participated in the bombings, but argued that Tamerlan was the driving force behind the attack.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Courtroom sketch of Tsarnaev Source: AP

In a note he scrawled in a boat he was found hiding in, Tsarnaev said the attack was meant to retaliate against the U.S. for its actions in Muslim countries.

Tsarnaev has not expressed any public remorse, although a prominent Catholic nun, Sister Helen Prejean, who visited him in jail said that he did to her.

“No one deserves to suffer like they did,” she quoted him as saying.

Rebekah Gregory, a Texas woman who lost a leg in the bombing, defiantly told Tsarnev 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 Tsarnev 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 Tsarnev 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.

Rebekah Gregory Boston Marathon bombing survivor Rebekah Gregory, second from right, walks towards the Moakley Federal Courthouse. Source: AP

Bill Richard, whose 8-year-old son Martin was the youngest person killed in the bombing, said Tsarnev 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.

Richard noted that his family would have preferred thatTsarnevreceive 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.”

With AFP. Originally published 11.20am

Read: Inside the prison where the Boston bomber is expected to be executed

Read: Timeline: How police caught the Boston bombers

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