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May 19, 2015

Boston bomber to face about 20 of his victims at sentencing

Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will face about 20 of his victims at a hearing next month when he is formally sentenced for the 2013 attack, a U.S. judge said Tuesday.

The jury that found Tsarnaev, 21, guilty of killing three people and injuring 264 with a pair of homemade pressure-cooker bombs at the race's crowded finish line on April 15, 2013, sentenced him to death last week.

"We could proceed rather expeditiously," in making the jury's sentence formal, U.S. District Judge George O'Toole told prosecutors and defense attorneys in the courtroom where Tsarnaev was tried. Judge O'Toole did not set a date for the sentencing but vowed to do so soon.

Federal prosecutors said that about 20 victims -- a group that includes people injured by the bombing and those whose friends or family members were hurt or killed -- have indicated they wish to speak at the hearing.

Tsarnaev, who did not appear at Tuesday's hearing, would also have the right to speak at the hearing but would not be obligated to say anything. He did not speak in his own defense during the trial.

His attorneys are certain to appeal the death sentence and legal wrangling over his fate could play out over the course of years if not decades. Just three of the 74 people sentenced to death in the United States for federal crimes since 1988 have been executed.

During Tsarnaev's trial, the jury saw graphic photos and videos of the explosions of the bombs as well as the bloody aftermath of the blasts, when victims lying in puddles of blood screamed in agony and first responders struggled to save them while worrying about possible follow-up attacks.

Defense attorneys argued that Tsarnaev's 26-year-old brother, Tamerlan, was the driving force behind the attack, an argument the jury rejected when sentencing him to death rather than life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Tsarnaev killed 8-year-old Martin Richard, Chinese exchange student Lingzi Lu, 23, and restaurant manager Krystle Campbell, 29, in the bombing and along with his brother shot dead Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer Sean Collier, 26.