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Coming To Terms With The Boston Marathon Bomber's Sentence


One day after a jury in Boston sentenced convicted bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death, many in the community have complicated feelings about the sentence. As Craig LeMoult of member station WGBH reports, it's a question they will debate for years as a lengthy appeals process begins.

CRAIG LEMOULT, BYLINE: I'm standing right next to the marathon finish line right now, and there's a small, makeshift memorial that looks like it sprung up overnight. There's an empty champagne bottle sitting on the sidewalk. Around it are scattered flowers, and on the sidewalk in blue letters are the words, I love you, Krystle and then a heart and the names Matt and MJ. One of the three people who was killed here just over two years ago was 29-year-old Krystle Campbell.

TABITHA ROMAN: It's going to be a long road for everybody.

LEMOULT: Suffolk Law School student Tabitha Roman points out, with the appeals process, the case really isn't over. Roman unwraps two bouquets of flowers and lays them along with an American flag on the sidewalk next to the champagne bottle.

ROMAN: So we always think of, if that was us, how much our life would change. So it's kind of like you just think, as the city of Boston, you're just all together as one.

LEMOULT: And while many agree the Boston community has come together in a new way since the bombing, one topic they're not necessarily all together on is the verdict. Jack Mulhern of Boston says Tsarnaev got what he deserved.

JACK MULHERN: So he and his brother are complete cowards. The justice will be levied by God. But on this planet, it was levied by a jury. And he's now going away and then going away for good.

LEMOULT: Caitlin Keane of Boston says she was surprised by the sentence.

CAITLIN KEANE: I'm very anti-death penalty. And I kind of just thought that the general mindset of the, you know, of the Boston community was the same. So I was a little bit surprised, but I'm also not - in a way, I'm not surprised. So it's a very tense situation.

LEMOULT: Several polls recently have shown the majority Bostonians were against putting Tsarnaev to death. Capital punishment has been abolished in Massachusetts for crimes tried by the state. But this was a federal case. Bostonians like Tom Garvin show just how conflicted people can be on this difficult topic.

TOM GARVIN: I'd like to think we're a better society than one that would impose death. And on the other hand, if there hadn't been some very stiff punishment for the evil that he caused, that wouldn't feel right either. So I'm comfortable with what transpired.

LEMOULT: Others, like Karina Chapman, who was visiting from Kennebunkport, Maine, have seen their positions change over the course of the trial.

KARINA CHAPMAN: I was more firmly on the death penalty side for a long time. And then I read what the Richard family wrote.

LEMOULT: Eight-year-old Martin Richard was the youngest of the three who were killed that day. His parents published an essay in the Boston Globe asking the Justice Department not to seek the death penalty. They said years of appeals would prolong the constant, painful reminder of what was taken from them. Chapman says she was moved by that.

CHAPMAN: To think that every time his name comes up in the media, what they must be going through, just - you can tell I'm getting upset thinking about it. And I wish, in a way, that we would've locked him up and thrown away a key and let him know that the world forgot about him.

LEMOULT: The death sentence triggers an automatic appeal to a higher federal court. Meaning, whether you think he should ultimately be put to death or not, the world won't forget Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and what he did for some time. For NPR News, I'm Craig LeMoult in Boston. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: In the audio of this story, as in a previous Web summary, we say the Boston community is not in agreement over the jury's verdict. We should have said that there are differences over the jury-imposed sentence of Tsarnaev, not the verdict.] Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: May 15, 2015 at 9:00 PM PDT
In the audio of this story, as in a previous Web summary, we say the Boston community is not in agreement over the jury's verdict. We should have said that there are differences over the jury-imposed sentence of Tsarnaev, not the verdict.
Craig LeMoult
Craig produces sound-rich features and breaking news coverage for WGBH News in Boston. His features have run nationally on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition, as well as on PRI's The World and Marketplace. Craig has won a number of national and regional awards for his reporting, including two national Edward R. Murrow awards in 2015, the national Society of Professional Journalists Sigma Delta Chi award feature reporting in 2011, first place awards in 2012 and 2009 from the national Public Radio News Directors Inc. and second place in 2007 from the national Society of Environmental Journalists. Craig is a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and Tufts University.