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Boston bomber Tsarnaev breaks silence and apologizes during official sentencing

A courtroom sketch shows Tsarnaev during his trial.
A courtroom sketch shows Tsarnaev during his trial.
Jane Flavell Collins | AP

Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev appeared unusually contrite in a five-minute statement he gave this morning at his formal sentencing hearing, apologizing for the first time to the victims and their families for the deadly attack.

"I am sorry for the lives I have taken, for the suffering that I have caused you, for the damage I have done, irreparable damage," Tsarnaev said.

"I pray to Allah, to bestow his mercy on those affected in the bombing and their families," he continued. "I pray for your healing."

His remarks this morning constitute Tsarnaev's only public statement during the course of his trial. Several legal experts did not expect Tsarnaev to make any statement, given that they say there is "little upside" to doing so. Previously, statements had only been made on his behalf by his defense team, including an alleged apology Tsarnaev made to a US marshal following an incident in which he wagged his middle finger at a holding cell camera. The marshal, Kevin Roche, testified on behalf of Tsarnaev's defense. Prosecutor Nadine Pellegrini showed the video during the sentencing trial, in order to prove that Tsarnaev was "without remorse."

Tsarnaev, who was found guilty of orchestrating the April 2013 bombings with his deceased brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was formally sentenced to death after his statement. A federal jury handed down that sentence this May. Tsarnaev's sentencing generated controversy, as several survivors opposed the death penalty.

Tsarnaev's testimony came after several statements from victims of the Boston bombing and their families.

For our explainer on the Boston Marathon bombings, click here.