Boston bomber apologises in court

Court sketches on the wall after convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was formally sentenced to death at the federal courthouse in Boston on Wednesday.
Court sketches on the wall after convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was formally sentenced to death at the federal courthouse in Boston on Wednesday.PHOTO: REUTERS

Few in Boston impressed by his words; 21-year-old formally sentenced to death

BOSTON - It was an unexpected moment. After two years of silence and sitting through his trial looking bored and impassive, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who has been sentenced to death for the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, rose in court on Wednesday to apologise for his deeds.

"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," Tsarnaev, 21, who is originally from Kyrgyzstan, mumbled softly in heavily accented English.

"I'm guilty of it. If there is any lingering doubt of that, let it be no more."

But few in Boston were impressed by his words.

Ms Lynn Julian, who was near the site of the first explosion and suffered traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder and other ailments, doubted Tsarnaev's sincerity. "I regret having ever wanted to hear him speak, because what he said showed no remorse, no regret, no empathy for what he's done to our lives," Ms Julian said.

A Boston electrician waiting for a train at the South Station transit hub laughed when asked if he was moved by Tsarnaev's apology. "The guy blew people up. I don't want to hear, 'I'm sorry.' I want him in a dark hole," said Mr Matt Schulze, 31.

But Mr Henry Borgard, 24, who said in a victim impact statement that the post-traumatic stress he incurred had forced him to drop out of college and that he had forgiven Tsarnaev, said after the hearing that he was heartened by Tsarnaev's statement.

"For me to hear him say he's sorry," Mr Borgard said, "that is enough for me."

The four-minute speech, laced throughout with references to Allah as those in the courtroom strained to make out his words, came during a day filled with drama, beginning with heart-rending victim impact statements and concluding with the judge formally confirming a jury's death sentence against Tsarnaev.

On April 15, 2013, two pressure-cooker bombs planted by Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan, tore through the marathon.

Three people were killed that day, 17 lost limbs and 250 more were injured, many of them grievously. A fourth person - a law enforcement officer - was shot dead by the Tsarnaevs a few days later.

Tamerlan was killed in a shootout with the police.

Before he was captured hiding in a boat, Tsarnaev wrote that the bombings were revenge for all the innocent Muslims killed in American-led wars.

Judge George A. O'Toole Jr was unmoved by Tsarnaev's words. After he spoke, the judge told him: "Whenever your name is mentioned, what will be remembered is the evil you have done."

But even as of the US District Court judge formally sentenced Tsarnaev on Wednesday to six death sentences, 20 sentences of life in prison and four more sentences of between seven and 25 years, very little was actually over.

Appeals by his lawyers could take years, if not decades, to wend their way through the courts.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 26, 2015, with the headline 'Boston bomber apologises in court'. Print Edition | Subscribe