A somber, soft-spoken Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev confessed his crimes and apologized Wednesday at his sentencing hearing for the April 2013 terror attack that killed three people and wounded more than 260 others.
“I am sorry for the lives I have taken, for the suffering I have caused, and for the terrible damage I have done,” said Tsarnaev, who was sentenced to death.
“I would like to apologize to the victims and the survivors,” said Tsarnaev. “I did do it.”
It was the first time Tsarnaev’s voice had been heard in federal court in Boston, other than to enter his not-guilty plea. His statement came after hours of heartwrenching testimony from those who survived the bombing, and relatives of those killed by the blasts.
“I am Muslim. My religion is Islam. I pray to Allah to bestow his mercy on those affected in the bombing and their families,” he said, hunched over and speaking with a slight accent. “I pray for your healing.”
“I ask Allah to have mercy on me, my brother, and my family,” he said in the brief statement to a hushed courtroom. Tsarnaev’s brother, his partner in the attack, was killed in a confrontation with police.
Tsarnaev, 21, had taken a sharp turn from a partying college student to self-radicalized terrorist bent on striking a blow against the United States.
The two bombs planted by Tsarnaev and his brother on April 15, 2013, turned the finish line of the festive, world-renowned athletic event into a scene of bloody carnage. Seventeen of those wounded lost limbs.
Tsarnaev was also convicted of participating with his brother in the slaying of an MIT police officer several days after the bombing and in a violent confrontation with police in Watertown shortly afterwards.
A US District Court jury had already sentenced Tsarnaev to death. US District Judge George A. O’Toole Jr. formalized that sentence at the end of the hearing.
“I sentence you to the penalty of death by execution,” O’Toole said.
The judge told Tsarnaev he would be remembered as a symbol of evil.
“No one will remember that your teachers were fond of you, that you were funny, a good athlete,’’ he said. “Whenever your name is mentioned, what will be remembered is the evil you have done.’’
“What will be remembered is that you murdered and maimed. … It was a monstrous self-deception. You had to forget your own humanity. The common humanity you shared with your brother Martin.’’ Martin Richard, 8, was the youngest of the three people killed in the bombing, at the finish line that day for a family outing.
Tsarnaev’s statement came after an outpouring of profound pain and searing anger from 24 people who gave victim impact statements.
“I don’t know what to say to you,’’ said Patricia Campbell, mother of victim Krystle Campbell. “What you did to my daughter was disgusting.’’
Bill Campbell, father of the 29-year-old woman, told Tsarnaev, who prosecutors said viewed himself as a soldier in a holy war, “You failed as a soldier.”
Tsarnaev, who was 19 at the time of the terror attack, appeared in court looking much the same as he did when he was last seen on May 14, the day he was sentenced to death by the jury — with shaggy curly hair, the same beard, and wearing a dark, open-collared shirt and suit jacket. He showed little emotion.
Bill and Denise Richard, parents of Martin Richard, denounced Tsarnaev for choosing to help his brother, Tamerlan, wage the attack, which not only killed Martin but inflicted grievous injuries on the rest of the family.
“His attorneys told us the truth of what we already knew. He was guilty,’’ Bill Richard said, noting that the defense had conceded Tsarnaev’s role at the start of the trial.
“He chose to do nothing to prevent all of this from happening. He chose hate. He chose destruction. He chose death,’’ Bill Richard said in a joint statement.
The Richards had previously called for a life sentence for Tsarnaev. Richard on Wednesday said, “We had wanted him to have a lifetime to think about this, but he will have less than that.”
“We choose love. We choose kindness. We choose peace,’’ Richard said. “This is our response to hate. That’s what makes us different from him.”
Jenn Rogers, the sister of Sean Collier, the MIT police officer who was murdered by Tsarnaev and his brother, spoke with disdain in her voice. She noted that Tsarnaev had driven over his brother in a stolen Mercedes Benz as he escaped the firefight with police in Watertown, a battle that also led to the wounding of MBTA Transit Police Officer Richard Donohue.
“He ran his own brother over with a car. He had no issues shooting mine in the head,’’ Rogers said of Tsarnaev. “He spit in the face of the American dream. ... He is a coward and a liar.”
She noted that Tsarnaev had gone to a store shortly after the bombing and bought a bottle of milk. “Head held high, with a swaggering step … like he was with an entourage … he bought milk after setting off a bomb that killed children,’’ she said.
Rogers recalled rushing to the hospital where her brother was taken after he was discovered shot in his parked police cruiser, bleeding from his face. At the hospital, she said, “I walked into a room of full grown men sobbing.”
Rogers said she missed her brother every day and missed the peace of mind she once had.
“I don’t know what makes me happy anymore,’’ she said. “I rarely date anymore. ... There’s an emptiness I cannot manage to fill.”
Karen McWatters, Krystle Campbell’s close friend, held her hand as she died on Boylston Street. She took the stand, accompanied by her husband, Kevin.
“She was not the enemy,’’ McWatters said. “They didn’t even know her. ... Those brothers took away an angel.”
McWatters, who referred to Tsarnaev as “the defendant’’ noted that Tsarnaev stood on Boylston Street in front of the Forum Restaurant after he placed one of the two bombs that exploded in the attack. “The defendant stood there, watching children play” and still left the bomb behind, she said.
Like Bill Campbell, McWatters told Tsarnaev he was a failure.
“Your friends abandoned you,’’ she said. “You will die in prison alone.”
McWatters called on him to show remorse for what he did. “You ruined so many lives that day,’’ she said.“Why did we not see any remorse?”
Michael Chase was one of the rescuers. He rushed to help the Richard family. He wept as he recalled using his belt as a tourniquet for Martin Richard’s sister, Jane Richard, who lost one of her legs, and sitting and comforting the oldest Richard child, Henry, who was not physically harmed.
“I’m never going to get rid of those images on that street, Boylston,’’ said Chase, who added that he believed Tsarnaev’s attack was a failure. “Events like the bombings … allow our differences to divide us more. Evil acts make it easier for more evil to fester.”
However, he said, “We are strong. This community is strong. I’ve never felt anything like this, in e-mails and text messages, from complete strangers. The defendant did not succeed. … I’m still standing here.’’
He works with students with emotional problems and once had a flashback and a panic attack at work when a student started screaming. He also indicated his marriage had suffered as a result of the lingering, pain-filled memories.
Tsarnaev, a Cambridge Rindge and Latin School graduate who appeared to be a happy-go-lucky student at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, was convicted of 30 charges in late April after the first phase of the trial.
In the second phase of the trial, which lasted a month, the same jury chose to sentence Tsarnaev to death for six of the 30 counts — specifically the counts that related to the bomb Tsarnaev placed outside the Forum restaurant that killed Martin Richard and 23-year-old Lingzi Lu, a Boston University graduate student from China.
The jury settled on life sentences for charges related to the bomb that Tsarnaev’s older brother, Tamerlan, placed farther up Boylston Street that killed Campbell. The jury also imposed a life sentence on the charges related to killing Collier.
The jury was asked to consider mitigating factors that Tsarnaev’s lawyers cited as arguments against the death penalty, but the jury rejected those arguments, and also found that Tsarnaev lacked remorse.
Only a judge can hand down the sentence, but O’Toole was bound by the jury’s decision.
Richard Donohue, the Transit Police officer wounded in Watertown, recalled Collier as a friend, noting that they attended the same police training academy together.
“Most gut-wrenching time was when I had to watch my friend Sean’s funeral from my hospital bed,’’ said Donohue, who has since recovered and returned to the Transit Police where he was recently promoted to sergeant. Donohue said he could “never forgive’’ Tsarnaev for the death of Collier.
He said he can’t run and swim anymore and has trouble caring for his 2-year-old son, whom he was separated from for months while undergoing rehabilitation.
At least a dozen of the 18 jurors were in the courtroom Wednesday. During the victim impact testimony, the forewoman could be seen wiping tears from her eyes.
In sentencing Tsarnaev, O’Toole told him that if he truly believed his God wanted him to kill people, then he followed a “cruel god” — and not the God of Islam.
“They induce you not to a path of glory, but a judgment of condemnation,’’ O’Toole said.
O’Toole noted that the trial and been grueling both because of its length and because of the harrowing testimony and graphic photos introduced as evidence. He said he would never forget testimony about the individual acts of heroism by first responders and spectators who turned belts into tourniquets and drinks into fire extinguishers.
“Those of us who sat through this, from beginning to end, heard things they will never forget, good and bad,” O’Toole said. “We all heard about the heroes, and there were many.’’
Tsarnaev’s silence until just before he was sentenced had been predicted by defense attorneys familiar with strategies used by defense attorneys in federal death trials.
During the trial or the subsequent sentencing phase, Tsarnaev could have taken the stand — but only as a witness who would be subject to cross-examination by federal prosecutors