PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Boston Marathon bombing survivor Heather Abbott found her first face-to-face encounter with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in the courtroom “satisfying,” but doesn’t feel quite the same way about his death sentence.
A federal jury returned a death sentence Friday for the convicted bomber, opting for capital punishment over life in prison. During the trial, his defense team never argued that he hadn’t committed the bombings but instead tried to convince the jury that he was acting under the sway of his older brother, Tamerlan.
After 15 hours of deliberations, they rejected that argument. A formal sentencing date has yet to be determined.
Abbott testified against Tsarnaev in court during the guilt phase of the trial, and told Eyewitness News that she locked eyes with him and found it liberating and satisfying. But her reaction to the death sentence was not the same.
“I don’t know that I would have felt differently, regardless of which one it was,” she said Saturday morning, “but I think I was looking for some sense of closure but I don’t think I found that.”
The sentence is not something to celebrate, Abbott said. She says she’s moved on, but shared a sentiment first voiced by the family of 3-year-old Martin Richard.
“I think it’s also unfortunate that we all have to continue to live with seeing his face and hearing his name now for several years to come,” she said.
That’s because the appeals process on a federal death penalty case could take years, according to Eyewitness News legal analyst and former U.S. Attorney Robert Corrente. Richard’s parents had publicly advocated for a life sentence for Tsarnaev, which would have avoided the lengthy appeals process.
Tsarnaev will eventually be taken out of state for his execution, since Massachusetts has outlawed capital punishment. He would be just the fourth person executed by the federal government since 1963, alongside Oklahoma City Bomber Timothy McVeigh, murderer and drug trafficker Juan Raul Garza, and rapist and murderer Louis Jones, Jr.
Meanwhile, his former classmates at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth celebrated their commencement Friday.
“I feel a sense of sadness about it,” Abbott said. “It’s really unfortunate that someone who had such a promising life chose to go the path that he did.”
But when asked if she had any remorse about the fact that her testimony may have contributed to the death penalty verdict, Abbott answered with just one word: “No.”