Minutes before he was sentenced to death for his role in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev broke his public silence today to apologize to the families of his victims.
"I am sorry for the lives I have taken, for the suffering I have caused, and for the terrible damage I have done," Tsarnaev said in court Wednesday. "I pray to Allah to bestow his mercy on those affected in the bombing and their families. I pray for your healing."
A jury sentenced Tsarnaev to death last month, and today's sentencing was a formality. A federal judge remanded the 21-year-old bomber to death row at a prison in Terra Haute, Ind known for its high security and restrictive, solitary conditions.
In a nervous, shaking voice, Tsarnaev noted that it was Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of mercy and forgiveness. "I ask Allah to have mercy on me, my brother, and my family," he said.
The bombing killed six and injured hundreds. Following his arrest, "I learned of some of the victims, their names, their faces, their ages," Tsarnaev said.
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"I am guilty…let there be no doubt about that," he said.
He is the first terrorist sentenced to death by a U.S. jury since 9/11. But the federal government hasn't executed anyone in more than a decade, and Tsarnaev's expected appeals will likely delay his execution for years.
His brief public speech—the first since he was arrested in a manhunt that swept the Boston area following the bombing—came after more than 30 victims and family members spoke to the court. Some expressed anger, while others lamented his sentence.
"Do you know what mass destruction really does? It brings people together,” amputee Rebekah Gregory told Tsarnaev.
“If you were truly remorseful,” Karen McWatters, another victim, told him, “now is the time you can say you were sorry and mean it."
During Tsarnaev's three-month trial, he sat impassively, never testifying or speaking, except for the words "not guilty." And as he was led out of the courtroom to his prison cell following the sentencing, Tsarnaev didn't look back.
Casey Tolan is a National News Reporter for Fusion based in New York City.