Bombing Survivors Share Mixed, Emotional Reactions To Tsarnaev Death Penalty

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Liz Norden, whose two sons each lost a leg in the attack, speaks to media outside the courthouse and receives support from first responder Mike Ward. (Stephan Savoia/AP)
Liz Norden, whose two sons each lost a leg in the attack, speaks to media outside the courthouse and receives support from first responder Mike Ward. (Stephan Savoia/AP)

Death, "that's the easy way out for him," says Carol Downing.

"I was hoping that he would go away and never be heard from again," continues Downing, "and suffer the rest of his life like everybody is going to suffer that’s been involved in this."

Downing's two daughters spent months in the hospital after the blast. Nicole Gross had to learn to walk again. Erika Brannock lost most of her left leg.

"Everyone at the court did what they thought was right. I still think justice was done, just not what I would have chosen," says Downing, who lives outside Baltimore. She was among many who reacted Friday to the death sentence given to convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

But Liz Norden says the death penalty is appropriate. Norden, whose two sons both lost a leg during the bombing, calls this outcome bittersweet.

"It feels like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders," Norden says to reporters outside the federal courthouse in Boston. "I don't think there's any winners, but it was justice."

Norden and Roseann Sdoia say they were surprised that all 12 jurors agreed to impose the death penalty.

"We come from such a liberal state, and it’s not an easy decision to decide to end someone’s life," says Sdoia, who lost her right leg above the knee in the blast.

Sdoia says she did not have a preference between life in prison and the death penalty for Tsarnaev. She was having lunch with friends on the Cape when she heard the news and is determined not to let Tsarnaev take any more pleasure from her life.

"I don’t want to waste time with him," Sdoia says. "I spent days in the court, hours, and we’re heading into the summer months and beautiful weather and there’s no need to waste that on him."

Sdoia and others worry that the death penalty decision, and all the years of appeals it is expected to trigger, will make it difficult for some survivors to move on in life.

Chris Troyanos, medical coordinator for the Boston Marathon, says the jury’s decision won’t bring the closure everyone was looking for.

"You always worry about the people of Boston," Troyanos says, "but Boston responded extremely well to this. A lot of people did so many great things that day and after the fact. You hold onto that strength and the resiliency that this city had and that’s what keeps you going."

But for the moment, there are a lot of mixed feelings across Boston that are only more intensified for those who experienced the bomb Tsarnaev placed on Boylston Street.

"Some of us were waiting for this, some people were waiting for the opposite," says Carlos Arredondo, "so it's just a lot of feelings. It's really hard to digest everything that's been happening."

This segment aired on May 15, 2015.

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Martha Bebinger Reporter
Martha Bebinger covers health care and other general assignments for WBUR.



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