BOSTON: Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev apologized for the deadly attack for the first time Wednesday, just before a judge formally sentenced him to death.
"I am sorry for the lives that I've taken, for the suffering that I've caused you, for the damage that I've done, irreparable damage," the 21-year-old college student said, breaking more than two years of public silence.
To the victims, he said: "I pray for your relief, for your healing."
The April 15, 2013, attack killed three people and wounded more than 260.
An appeal is automatic in death penalty cases.
Tsarnaev's five-minute speech included religious references and praise of Allah. He paused several times, looking as if he was trying to remain composed. He stood and faced the judge while speaking, but spoke of the victims.
The apology came after Tsarnaev listened impassively for about three hours as victims and their loved ones lashed out at him for his "cowardly" and "disgusting" acts.
"He can't possibly have had a soul to do such a horrible thing," said Karen Rand McWatters, who lost a leg in the attack and whose best friend, 29-year-old Krystle Campbell, was killed.
Campbell's mother, Patricia Campbell, spoke directly to Tsarnaev.
"What you did to my daughter is disgusting," she said. "I don't know what to say to you. I think the jury did the right thing."
Tsarnaev made it clear he was listening.
"All those who got up on that witness stand and that podium relayed to us, to me - I was listening - the suffering that was and the hardship that still is, with strength, with patience, with dignity," he said.
The only real suspense Wednesday was whether Tsarnaev would say anything when given a chance to speak near the end of the proceedings. He had said almost nothing publicly since his arrest more than two years ago.
U.S. District Judge George O'Toole Jr. said no one will remember that Tsarnaev's teachers or friends were fond of him. "What will be remembered is that you murdered and maimed innocent people, and that you did it willfully and intentionally. You did it on purpose," the judge said.
"I sentence you to the penalty of death by execution."
Tsarnaev looked down and rubbed his hands together as the judge pronounced his fate.
Outside the courthouse, witnesses said a man drove through a security barrier and parked in a restricted area. Police searched the man's car, and an officer at the scene was seen holding a meat cleaver.
The man was taken away in handcuffs. No other details were immediately available.