The Cable

Boston Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Apologizes, But is On His Way to Terre Haute

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is now the first first Islamic extremist who has been condemned to execution in the United States.

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Federal Judge George O’Toole Jr. did Wednesday what a Massachusetts jury last month asked him to do, and sentenced Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death. In an unexpected twist, the man responsible for killing three and injuring 264 spoke publicly for the first time since he pleaded “not guilty” to the April, 15, 2013 attacks.

“Gives praise to Allah. I want to ask forgiveness from Allah,” Tsarnaev said.

He continued: “I’d like to thank the jury. I would like to apologize to the victims and the survivors.”

“Immediately after the bombing that I am guilty of, I learned of some of the victims, their names, their faces, their age.”

“I am sorry for the lives I have taken and the suffering I caused and the damage I’ve done, irreparable damage. I ask Allah to have mercy upon me, my brother and my family.” His brother, Tamerlan, who also plotted the bombing, was killed during a manhunt in the days after the marathon.

“Allah knows the best,” Tsarnaev concluded. “Thank you.”

His lawyer, Judy Clarke, who had successfully kept all of her clients off of death row until Tsarnaev was sentenced to death, told the court the 21-year old had offered to plead guilty and write a letter of apology. The government rejected the deal to pursue the death penalty.

These new developments added additional drama to a sentencing hearing that was a formality; O’Toole wasn’t likely to betray the wishes of the jury. The only real mystery surrounding the hearing was whether Tsarnaev would address the court.

“This was an extraordinary case.” Judge O’Toole said. The jury saw “things we will never forget, both good and bad.”

O’Toole then addressed Tsarnaev.

“Whenever your name is mentioned, what will be remembered is the evil you have done.”

“I sentence you to the penalty of death by execution.”

Tsarnaev’s apology followed statements from family members of victims, who were given a chance in the Boston courtroom to confront the 21-year old, the first Islamic extremist who has been condemned to execution in the United States.

“The choices that you made are despicable,” Patricia Campbell, whose daughter, Krystle, was killed at the marathon’s finish line, told Tsarnaev.

“You will die in prison alone,” said Karen McWatters, a friend of Campbell.

The parade of witnesses unanimously condemned Tsarnaev, who along with his older brother carried out the bombing. It was the worst terror attack on U.S. soil since 9/11. The two had no formal affiliation with terror groups, but were inspired by Islamic radicals in the Russian region of Dagestan, where their mother lives.

Although the formal death sentence was a formality, it could be delayed by years of appeals.

Tsarnaev was also sentenced for killing Sean Collier, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer, during a manhunt for the two bombers. Tamerlan was killed after being shot by police, then run over by a car driven by his brother, on April 19. His younger brother was found hiding in the back of a boat in suburban Boston a day later.

If Tsarnaev is ultimately executed by the federal government, he will be the first prisoner to be killed since 2003. Since 2000, there have been only three federal executions; The most high profile is Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

There are currently 61 inmates sitting on death row in federal prisons. Since 1927, 37 federal prisoners have been executed.

Among those who condemned Tsarnaev on Wednesday were some who offered their sympathies. A poll in Massachusetts showed 62 percent of Bostonians wanted Tsarnaev’s life spared.

“I’m sorry for you Mr. Tsarnaev. I hope you will be able to do some good,” Johanna Hantel, who was injured in the bombing, told the emotionless 21-year old.

Photo Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images

David Francis was a senior reporter for Foreign Policy, where he covered international finance. @davidcfrancis

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