Victims of the Boston Marathon bombing and their family members are expected to speak on Wednesday before a judge formally sentences bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death. More than 30 people who were either injured or lost family members will describe the impact the bombing had on their lives.
Mr. Tsarnaev, 21, was condemned to die by lethal injection by a federal jury in May for the attack he and his older brother Tamerlan carried out at the 2013 marathon. The Tsarnaev brothers detonated two pressure-cooker bombs near the Boston marathon finish line, killing three people and injuring 264.
Tsarnaev’s sentencing hearing will be held Wednesday morning in U.S. District Court. Judge George O'Toole Jr. is required to impose the jury's sentence under the federal death penalty law.
“Why does this murder deserve the death penalty while other murders do not?” prosecutor Steve Mellin said in his closing statement last month. “The defendant didn’t simply kill people. He killed them using a weapon of mass destruction. Its purpose is not to kill a specific victim, its purpose is to kill indiscriminately. And not just kill. Destroy.”
Among the victims scheduled to speak on Wednesday are Rebekah Gregory of Texas, who lost a leg in the bombing, and Liz Norden, whose two sons each lost a leg.
Tsarnaev, who was convicted of 30 federal charges for planning and carrying out the deadly attack, will also be given a chance to speak.
But not all victims supported the death penalty verdict. As The Christian Science Monitor reported, the parents of 8-year-old Martin Richard, the youngest victim killed in the attack, made a plea in The Boston Globe that Tsarnaev not receive the death penalty. They argued that a death penalty conviction – with all its appeals – would harm their ability to heal.
"We know that the government has its reasons for seeking the death penalty, but the continued pursuit of that punishment could bring years of appeals and prolong reliving the most painful day of our lives," they wrote.
The jurors (who were already sequestered when the article was published) sentenced Tsarnaev to death.
During Tsarnaev’s trial earlier this year, the court heard testimony from people who lost loved ones in the bombing. Speakers included the fathers of Martin Richard and Krystle Campbell, an aunt of Lingzi Lu, and the brother of Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer Sean Collier, whom the Tsarnaevs shot and killed three days after the bombing.
Tsarnaev's lawyers admitted he was a partner in the bombings, but argued that the attack was primarily planned and driven by his older brother. Tamerlan died after being shot by police and run over by his younger brother in a stolen car during a massive manhunt days after the attack.
The bombing was intended to retaliate against the U.S. for its actions in Muslim countries, according to a note Tsarnaev wrote inside the boat he was found hiding in.