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Some families shocked after court vacates Tsarnaev’s death sentence

Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff


Some relatives of those killed and maimed in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings expressed shock and confusion Friday after a federal appeals court overturned Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s death sentence.

A three-judge panel of the First US Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a new penalty-phase trial on whether the 27-year-old bomber should be executed for the attack that killed three people and wounded more than 260 others.

But for those who lost the most on April 15, 2013, the court’s ruling was both painful and confusing.

“I just don’t understand it,” said Patricia Campbell, whose daughter, Krystle, was one of three killed at the finish line. “It’s just terrible that he’s allowed to live his life. It’s unfair. He didn’t wake up one morning and decide to do what he did. He planned it out. He did a vicious, ugly thing.”

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She said she wasn’t sure whether she would return to court to try to persuade another judge to reimpose the death penalty.

“I don’t even know if I’d waste my time going,” Campbell said. “The government’s just wasting money. He should be dead by now for what he did.

Liz Norden, whose two sons each lost a leg as a result of the bombings, said she was “shocked by the decision.”

“I am frankly at a loss of words and disgusted by the thoughts of sitting through another penalty phase,” she said. “If this case didn’t warrant the death penalty, I don’t know what would.”

Bill Richard, whose 8-year-old son Martin died in the second blast, declined to comment Friday.

He referred a reporter to an essay he and his wife, Denise, wrote in 2015, in which they called for Tsarnaev’s life to be spared shortly before he was sentenced to death.

“We are in favor of and would support the Department of Justice in taking the death penalty off the table in exchange for the defendant spending the rest of his life in prison without any possibility of release and waiving all of his rights to appeal,” they wrote at the time.

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They added: “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. We hope our two remaining children do not have to grow up with the lingering, painful reminder of what the defendant took from them, which years of appeals would undoubtedly bring.”

Richard “Dic” Donohue, the former MBTA Transit Police officer who was wounded in the Watertown shootout, said the ruling didn’t come as a surprise.

“I’ve been expecting this since the trial and the initial appeal,” Donohue wrote on Twitter. “And in any case, he won’t be getting out and hasn’t been able to harm anyone since he was captured.”

Donohue’s wife, Kim Donohue, said the ruling “does not change anything in our lives” and doesn’t bring back their friend, MIT Police Officer Sean Collier, who was fatally shot by the Tsarnaevs as they attempted to flee the Boston area three days after the bombings.

“We have chosen to move forward in happiness and hope,” Kim Dononue said. “We have three little boys who need to know of the good that came from all this, they know the stories of the doctors who saved daddy’s life, names of the survivors like Jeff Bauman and DJ Simmonds’s family who are now our close friends.”

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Material from the Associated Press was used in this story.


David Abel can be reached at david.abel@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @davabel. Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.