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Quoting both Shakespeare and Verdi, a federal judge has sent convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the path to death row, telling him he will be remembered for murdering and maiming innocent people.
The words were a formality, but a stark one.
“I sentence you to the penalty of death by execution,” intoned U.S. District Judge George O’Toole. And with that, death row became Tsarnaev's official destination, two years and two months after he and his brother triggered two bombs at the marathon finish line.
U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz calls the outcome gratifying.
"I felt proud in that courtroom," she said. "Not just to be a Bostonian but also to be an American, because you heard a number of victims say not only are we Boston Strong, but we are America Strong."
The theatrical symbols were striking. Most extraordinary was the sight of 11 of the 12 jurors who just a month ago had condemned Tsarnaev to death. They were seated in the jury box.
The judge took pains to note the former jurors had no official role, that he had invited them to come back as individuals, and that they were sitting there in the box, in almost exactly the same order as they had for five months, because there was no other place to seat them.
Several times the judge said the jurors had affirmed his contention before the trial that he would find a fair jury when the defense was calling for the trial to be moved elsewhere.
Twenty-four victims delivered impact statements, and though they were not supposed to express their views on the death penalty, some, like the father of murder victim Krystle Campbell, told them, "You did the right thing."
The statements reflected a range of emotions from unbridled anger, to sorrow, resentment and despair of those whose lives had been physically, psychologically and financially shattered.
Moments of grace lit a room whose four corners seemed draped with death. Victim Joseph "J.P." Craven expressed hope that Tsarnaev is remorseful. Referring to young jihadis and would-be jihadis, Craven observed, “As ironic as it seems, Dzhokhar now possesses the opportunity to be a force of change in the lives we cannot reach.”
Indeed, the one surprising moment to the day came when the defendant, whose voice had never been heard at the trial, rose to address the court “in the name of Allah.”
“I’m 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.”
In a soft accented voice, Tsarnaev said, “I pray for your relief, for your healing, for your well-being, for your strength.”
“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."Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
But his statement brought a sharp rejoinder from victims.
"He talked about this being the month of forgiveness, implying that we should all forgive him," said Lynn Julian of Boston.
What was explicitly missing was a repudiation of the political screed Tsarnaev had written in the boat in a Watertown backyard. Julian added, “You are fighting men who look into the barrel of your gun and see heaven…how can you compete with that?”
"I regret having ever wanted to hear him speak, because what he said showed no remorse, no regret and no empathy for what he’s done to our lives," Julian said.
“We are Boston Strong and American Strong and choosing to mess with us was a terrible idea,” said Rebekah Gregory directly to Tsarnaev. “You and your brother have lost.”
The ring and the reference to Boston Strong, the reinforcing symbols of the jurors in their old places, and the passionate victim impact statements suggested that victims and prosecution had shared a common goal to secure the death penalty.
"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 innocent people."U.S. District Judge George O'Toole
Nowhere in the day was there the expression of opposition to the death penalty that some victims had taken to the U.S. attorney and the attorney general.
If they had not known beforehand, jurors and victims heard Judy Clarke, Tsarnaev's defense attorney, reveal that the defense had offered a guilty plea long before the trial started that would have resulted in Tsarnaev going to prison for the rest of his life without parole and with an apology, all of which the government turned down.
Outside the courthouse, Ortiz said Clarke’s statement “was not completely accurate,” but said no more.
Quoting Anthony to Brutus, the judge told Tsarnaev "the evil that men do lives after them. The good is oft interred with their bones."
Bones. A grim reminder of what this day was about and where Tsarnaev is headed.
“What will be remembered” of you, O’Toole said, “is the evil you have done.”
This segment aired on June 25, 2015.
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