Liz Norden, the mother of Boston bombing victims, responds to news that the Justice Department will seek the death penalty against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev if he is convicted.
The federal government’s decision to seek the death penalty against the man accused of setting off two bombs with his brother at the Boston Marathon last year, killing three people and injuring 275 others, was met with support Thursday by some survivors and their families — but also left others, who are continuing to recover, at a “loss of words.”
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is awaiting trial on charges that he and his brother, Tamerlan, built and planted the pressure-cooker bombs at the marathon finish line last April 15. Tamerlan died in the ensuing manhunt for the pair.
Liz Norden, whose sons Paul and J.P. both lost a leg in the bombing, said she backed the decision, announced by Attorney General Eric Holder.
“I felt it was very important that all the options are on the table for the jurors to decide, so I support it,” she told MSNBC.
But Rebekah Gregory, 26, who was seriously injured in the bombing along with her son, her fiancé and his sister, told NBC News she was at a “loss for words” over the decision.
Gregory, of Richmond, Texas, has been fighting to keep her left leg since the attack.
“I don’t even know how I feel about that. We’ve tried not to be involved in it as much as possible because I feel like he has already taken up enough of our time as it is. I don’t know what justice is in this situation. No matter if he is dead or alive, it doesn’t change anything for us,” she said, later adding: “He’ll get his judgment on Judgment Day, that’s how I feel.”
Norden said her sons had declined to meet with the Justice Department last summer about the attacks.
“Their only focus and main focus was on their recovery. They don't feel that whatever happens is going to change what happened to them,” she said, noting they’ve “come to terms” with what happened and are “moving on.”
“They're totally focusing on themselves getting better,” she said. “They’re very strong.”
Martin Richard, 8, Krystle Campbell, 29, and Chinese national Lu Lingzi, 23, were killed in the bombings. Tsarnaev is also accused in the shooting death of MIT campus police officer, Sean Collier, 27.
A Richard's family spokesman said the family did not want to comment. Messages left seeking reaction from several survivors were not immediately returned.
Among the factors listed by the government in its decision were that the killings were intentional, resulted from acts calculated to cause grave risks to public safety, and were committed in a cruel manner. And prosecutors said the defendant has demonstrated no remorse.
While most legal experts predicted the Justice Department would seek the death penalty, the decision was expected to be somewhat controversial.
The ACLU of Massachusetts said it was “disappointed” with the decision.
“The ACLU opposes the death penalty in all cases, because it is discriminatory and arbitrary, and because it inherently violates the Constitutional ban against cruel and unusual punishment,” the group’s executive director, Carol Rose, said in a statement.
"In this case, it is important to keep in mind that the people of Massachusetts, through their elected representatives, have repeatedly rejected the death penalty. Even shortly after the horrible Boston Marathon bombing, a Boston Globe poll found that the people of Boston said two-to-one that they would prefer a sentence of life without parole for Tsarnaev, if he is convicted.”
A poll conducted in September for the Boston Globe found that 57 percent of respondents favored a sentence of life without parole if Tsarnaev were to be convicted, while 33 percent thought death would be the appropriate punishment for the government to seek.
NBC News’ Pete Williams contributed to this report.