TIME Boston Marathon

The Running Club Where Boston Bombing Survivors Take Strides Together

The members of " 415 Strong" are running the Boston marathon on Monday, two years after the terrorist attack that changed all of their lives

The members of the 415 Strong running group have little in common in their day-to-day lives. There’s a man who owns a small business, a teacher who does volunteer work in her spare time, a woman who works in real estate. Some of them have kids and others aren’t thinking about starting a family. Some enjoy running, while others never could have pictured themselves running for four hours without stopping.

What ties the group together is that fraction of a mile on Boylston Street in Boston where they all happened to be standing on April 15, 2013 when a pair of brothers executed the most devastating terrorist attack in the United States since 9/11. In the wake of a tragedy, the group formed through word of mouth and began meeting regularly in Boston to trade recovery stories and advice.

“We were strangers, but we all went through the same thing,” said Sabrina Dello Russo, 39, a real estate project manager who suffered a shrapnel injury and now has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). “People who didn’t experience what I did don’t understand, but I can easily talk to the 415 team.”

On Monday, 25 members of 415 Strong will return to the Boston Marathon finish line. But this time, they won’t be spectators—they will be running, together, past the scene of the attack that changed all of their lives. The journey of training physically and mentally for this marathon has been a way to bond, and also a way to heal.

“We’re all in it for a common goal. To heal, to build resiliency, to reach new levels,” said Elizabeth Bermingham, 31, an elementary school teacher who suffered shrapnel wounds and a burst eardrum. “It gives empowerment for healing.”

For most of the members of 415 Strong, running was not a passion before the marathon. Given the location and timing of the bombs, most of the people injured were spectators, many of whom had no running experience. But when the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) offered in the fall of 2013 to give free entry to the marathon to anyone who had been hurt, many jumped at the opportunity.

Dave Fortier, one of the few runners injured in the bombing, helped turn the support group into the 415 Strong running group. He planned training sessions and enlisted the help of professional marathoner Jack Fultz to help novices prepare. Some survivors were able to run in 2014, but many decided to spend more time training and will be running for the first time Monday. Participating in the race provides an opportunity for victims “to take back the marathon,” Fortier said.

415 Strong, named for the month and day of the bombing, has remained a support group as well. Dello Russo, who was on the sidelines waiting for a friend to pass when the bombs went off, said she has a “love-hate relationship” with running, but encouragement from the group gets her through each run. When the group isn’t running, Dello Russo appreciates the company of people who experienced the same tragedy in the same way.

“I can’t be in a stressful environment where people are loud and everyone is yelling. I tend to remove myself. People who didn’t experience what I did don’t understand that,” she said.

The group also provides an outlet for discussion, where Dello Russo can talk openly about her fear of crowds. She says she couldn’t have returned to the race as a spectator, but running the marathon with the support of her friends has allowed her to work through her PTSD. Fortier, who runs a small telecommunications company, found his doctor through the group. In recent months, the group has been a place to discuss the trial of now-convicted marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

“The emotions surrounding it took me by surprise. I’m really not sure I totally figured it out yet,” Bermingham said of Tsarnaev’s guilty verdict. “That day my phone just didn’t stop buzzing with the marathon family just checking in.”

While the trial and the second anniversary of the bombing have brought the events back into the limelight, members of the group say they’ll remain friends long after the media attention fades and the bombing becomes history. Much of what they talk about these days is their families and their many interests outside running.

For Fortier, 415 Strong plays a bigger role than simply providing a place to talk about experiences. “We all came together out of something very tragic. There is evil in this world and there’s a lot of it, and we experienced some of it on Boylston that day,” he said. “But there’s so much more good than bad.”

TIME Crime

Support for the Death Penalty in America Has Hit a 40-year Low

Anti-Death Penalty Activists Hold Fast And Vigil Outside Supreme Court
Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images Abolitionist Action Committee member Bo Chamberlin of Columbus, Ohio, fasts with other death penalty opponents in front of the U.S. Supreme Court June 29, 2009 in Washington, DC.

Only a slim majority of Americans agree with it

Public backing for capital punishment in the U.S. has dipped to its lowest in 40 years, according to a new report, although a small majority of Americans still believe in it.

According to a study released by the Pew Research Center, just 56% of U.S. citizens support the death penalty — a decline of 6% since 2011. During the 1980s and 1990s, in comparison, that number often crossed 70%.

The study, which surveyed 1,500 adults across the U.S., found that the decline has come mainly among Democrats — 40% of Democrats support the death penalty while 56% oppose it, a sharp contrast from the 1996 survey that showed 71% of them for and just 25% against.

Overall, 71% of Americans say the risk of an innocent person being put to death is high, and 61% say the death penalty does not deter individuals from committing serious crimes.

TIME Crime

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Probably Won’t End Up in Massachusetts

A life sentence would likely take him to Colorado while death row would be in Indiana

The federal jury that found Dzhokhar Tsarnaev guilty on all 30 counts in the Boston Marathon bombing Wednesday is now set to decide whether he should get the death penalty — but he’s unlikely to end up in the state of Massachusetts.

A death sentence would see Tsarnaev sent to the Midwest, while a sentence of life imprisonment would most likely send him to a supermax prison in Colorado.

If Tsarnaev is sentenced to death, he’ll sit on death row in Indiana. The federal government has executed only three inmates in the last 50 years: Timothy McVeigh, who was convicted in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing; Juan Raul Garza, a reputed drug trafficker convicted of killing three people; and Louis Jones, a Gulf War veteran who kidnapped, raped and murdered a woman on a military base. All of them were executed in the last 15 years, and each execution took place at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind., the only location where the federal government carries out capital punishment in the U.S.

If Tsarnaev is given a life sentence, however, he could end up at one of a number of supermax facilities around the U.S., says Harvard University law professor Carol Steiker. The most likely is ADX Florence in Colorado, the federal government’s only supermax facility, nicknamed the “Alcatraz of the Rockies.”

The Colorado prison was designed to hold inmates like Terry Nichols, a co-conspirator in the Oklahoma City bombing, Unabomber Ted Kaczynski and domestic terrorist Eric Rudolph—all individuals the government feared could pose a potential threat while in custody.

Steiker says it will be up to the Federal Bureau of Prisons to choose where to hold Tsarnaev if he’s given life. North Carolina’s Butner Federal Correctional Institution, which holds Omar Abdel-Rahman—convicted on charges of conspiracy stemming from the 1993 World Trade Center bombing in New York—is also a possibility. The federal jail in Massachusetts where he is currently being held, FMC Devens, is designed mainly for male inmates requiring mental or medical care.

It’s far from clear whether a jury made up of residents of Massachusetts, which abolished the death penalty in 1984, will decide on a death sentence for Tsarnaev. Although jurors were chosen on their willingness to vote for the death penalty, most polls show Massachusetts residents to be majority anti-capital punishment.

While a Boston Globe poll in July found that 62% of respondents supported the federal government in seeking the death penalty for Tsarnaev, another poll by the newspaper in September found that 57% of respondents actually supported a life sentence for Tsarnaev. Only a third at the time said they favored the death penalty.

MORE: Boston Bombing Survivor: Either Sentence is Too Good for Tsarnaev

Massachusetts is also considered the most Catholic state in the country, with almost one in two residents identifying with the faith. The Catholic Church opposes the death penalty, and in the last few days, Catholic leaders around the state have publicly favored a life sentence. At least one Boston Marathon bombing victim has come out in favor of sparing Tsarnaev the death penalty, according to The New York Times.

TIME Courts

Closing Arguments Begin in Boston Marathon Bombing Trial

Lawyers for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are likely to tell jurors the suspect came under his brother's influence

(BOSTON) — Victims of the Boston Marathon bombing have gathered in court to listen to closing arguments in the federal death penalty trial of admitted bomber Dzkokhar Tsarnaev.

Marc Fucarile and Karen Rand McWatters, who each lost a leg in the bombing, were in U.S. District Court on Monday. The parents of an 8-year-old boy killed in one of the explosions also were there to listen to prosecutors and Tsarnaev’s lawyers sum up their cases.

Judge George O’Toole Jr. gave the jury instructions on the law before the lawyers were scheduled to give closing arguments.

O’Toole told the jury that Tsarnaev is charged with conspiring with his older brother, Tamerlan, to bomb the marathon in April 2013. The judge said the government must prove that Tsarnaev agreed with his brother to use a weapon of mass destruction and voluntarily joined in the plan to commit that crime.

TIME Courts

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Took ‘Intro to Ethics’ at Time of Boston Marathon Bombing

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is pictured in this photo presented as evidence by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Boston on March 23, 2015.
Reuters Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is pictured in this photo presented as evidence by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Boston on March 23, 2015.

The 21-year-old's report card shows an undeclared major with seven Fs

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, currently on trial for the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing that claimed five lives and injured 280, had a cumulative college GPA of 1.094 and enrolled in an “Intro to Ethics” class the same semester of the attack, according to university transcripts revealed in court Tuesday.

UMass-Dartmouth Vice Chancellor Mark Preble exhibited Tsarnaev’s academic credentials as part of Tuesday’s testimony, showing an undeclared major receiving seven F’s on his transcript. In his final semester, uncompleted by Tsarnaev, the alleged bomber also enrolled in courses on Intro to American Politics, General Psychology and Finite Math, the Boston Globe reported.

Tsarnaev’s subpar academic performance prompted the university to cancel his financial aid, Preble said. In January 2013, Tsarnaev filed a Satisfactory Academic Progress Report to account for his low grades and reacquire financial aid eligibility:

“This year I lost too many of my loved relatives,” Tsarnaev scribbled in his report. “I was unable to cope with the stress and maintain school work. My relatives live in Chechnya, Russia. A Republic that is occupied by Russian soldiers that falsely accuse and abduct innocent men under false pretences and terrorist accusations. I am at a point where I can finally focus on my school work. I wish to do well so one day I can help out those in need in my country, especially my family members.”

[Boston Globe]

TIME Crime

Boston Bombing Victim Posts Courageous Open Letter to Tsarnaev

Boston Marathon Bombing Trial
Boston Globe—Getty Images Boston Marathon victim Rebekah Gregory, right, heads into the Moakley Courthouse for the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev for the Boston Marathon bombings.

"I looked at you right in the face ... and realized I wasn't afraid anymore"

A woman who lost her leg after injuries sustained in the Boston Marathon bombing posted an open letter to admitted bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on Facebook, saying she’s no longer afraid of the man who gave her nightmares.

“This afternoon,” Rebekah Gregory DiMartino wrote on Wednesday, “I got to walk into a courtroom and take my place at the witness stand, just a few feet away from where you were sitting … I looked at you right in the face … and realized I wasn’t afraid anymore.”

Although DiMartino said she found sitting in court upsetting, wrote she realized it was “the crazy kind of step forward that I needed all along.”

But she didn’t mince words when it came to the 27-year-old accused of 30 charges relating to the Marathon bombing and the ensuing chase and firefight:

…You are a coward. A little boy who wouldn’t even look me in the eyes to see that. Because you can’t handle the fact that what you tried to destroy, you only made stronger.

Gregory posted another open letter in November saying goodbye to her leg before amputation. Doctors had tried 15 surgeries to restore it to health.

Tsarnaev’s lawyer said, in so many words, “It was him” during her opening statement Wednesday. But she entered a plea of “not guilty,” arguing that he had been manipulated by his older brother, Tamerlan.

TIME Courts

Everything You Should Know About the Boston Marathon Bombing Trial

Jury selection begins Monday

The trial of one of the accused Boston Marathon bombers started Monday, nearly two years after the attack that killed three people and injured more than 260 others, with the beginning of the selection of the jury that will ultimately decide the fate of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Here’s what to know as the trial gets underway.

What happened in April 2013?

Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, are suspected of building and detonating pressure-cooker bombs near the finish line of the marathon on April 15, 2013. The brothers escaped initial capture but were later identified as suspects and confronted in a days-long manhunt that shut down much of the Boston area and transfixed the country. Tamerlan died after a shootout with authorities that followed the death of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer; he was also said to have been run over by a vehicle driven by his brother, Dzhokhar, who was later found in a boat parked on a driveway in nearby Watertown.

What about the brothers’ background?

Tamerlan and Dzhokhar came to the U.S. from Kyrgyzstan when they were aged 15 and 8, respectively. The older brother became a solid boxer while in Cambridge, Mass., and his younger sibling would become a popular wrestler at Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School before enrolling at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. Dzhokhar was said to have adjusted to life in the U.S. easier than Tamerlan, who authorities painted as having become disillusioned and who they said would later align with radical Islam.

MORE The Horror. The Heroism.

What charges does Tsarnaev face?

He faces 30 federal counts including the bombing of a public place, malicious destruction of public property, carjacking, disruption of commerce and possession and use of a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death. Here’s the full list.

How long is the trial expected to last?

That’s unclear, but it could be several months. Selecting a fit jury from a pool of more than 1,200 could take a few weeks, according to the Boston Globe, and the trial will be split into two phases. The first will involve determining his innocence or guilt; if the jury finds Tsarnaev guilty, the second phase will revolve around his sentencing.

Where will the trial take place?

The trial is set to be held at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston. Tsarnaev’s defense team repeatedly tried to have it moved, arguing it would be too difficult to find an impartial jury where the attack took place. But the district court wouldn’t budge, writing in a newly released decision that it would be capable of finding 12 jurors and six alternates in the “large and diverse” population that resides in the district’s Eastern Division.

Who are the lawyers on both sides?

Legendary defense attorney Judy Clarke quickly joined Tsarnaev’s defense team, bringing her experience of representing the likes of unabomber Ted Kaczynski and Jared Lee Loughner, whose 2011 shooting rampage in Arizona left six people dead and 13 injured, including former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Many of her clients are convicted and imprisoned while having avoided capital punishment, which Clarke opposes. Two other members of Tsarnaev’s defense team are Miriam Conrad, the chief public defender for Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island, and David Bruck, a Washington and Lee University School of Law professor and the director of its death penalty defense clinic.

The prosecution is largely composed of Assistant U.S. Attorneys with strong background in terrorism cases. William Weinreb and Aloke Chakravarty both played key roles in the handling of the arrest of failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad in 2010. Nadine Pellegrini formerly led Boston’s major crimes unit.

Both legal teams will be presided over by U.S. District Judge George O’Toole Jr.

Who will likely be called as witnesses?

The court was recently handed a list of 590 law enforcement personnel, 142 civilians and 1,238 exhibits that they might make use of during the trial, the Times reports. That group includes some of the officers who were involved in the response to the attack, in addition Tsarnaev’s arrest and questioning.

Does Tsarnaev face the death penalty?

Yes. Even though the crime was committed in Massachusetts, where capital punishment has been illegal since the early 1980s, prosecutors charged Tsarnaev in the federal court system, which allows it. (A poll by the Globe in July found that 62% of respondents supported the decision by Attorney General Eric Holder to seek the death penalty, but 29% opposed his choice.)

What is the defense expected to argue?

Legal observers agree that the defense attorneys will try to protect their client from the death penalty rather than prove his innocence. Among the issues at play will be how Tsarnaev may have been influenced by his older brother, which would involve cooperation from close friends and family. The defense team had previously said it had difficulties researching his relatives overseas.

How do people in Massachusetts feel about the trial?

Interviews with local residents and survivors, conducted by the Boston Globe and New York Times, suggest they are ready to bring the tragic saga to a close. How exactly they hope to do that varies, as some say they don’t want to rehash the attack while others are eager to learn more about what happened.

Why has the case taken so long to come to trial?

The trial was originally scheduled to begin last fall but the defense team asked for it to be pushed back to September 2015 or later, claiming it didn’t provide enough time to prepare due to an overwhelming amount of material from prosecutors. The new date then became Jan. 5.

Read next: Summary of Counts Facing Boston Marathon Bombing Suspect

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME National Security

Friend of Boston Marathon Bombing Suspect Guilty of Obstructing Justice

Azamat Tazhayakov
Jane Flavell Collins—AP In this courtroom sketch, defendant Azamat Tazhayakov, a college friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, sits during a hearing in federal court in Boston on May 13, 2014.

Azamat Tazhayakov is the first of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's friends to be put on trial for obstructing the investigation

A federal court found a friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev guilty of obstruction of justice and of conspiring to obstruct justice for interfering with the investigation.

Azamat Tazhayakov, a former University of Massachusetts Dartmouth student, faces a possible 20-year sentence for the obstruction charge and five years for the conspiracy charge, the Boston Globe reports.

The 12-member U.S. District Court jury deliberated for 15 hours over the course of three days. The sentencing has been set for Oct. 16, according to U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz.

Prosecutors argued that Tazhayakov knew of another friend, Dias Kadyrbayev, who allegedly removed evidence from Tsarnaev’s room a few days after the bombing and worked with him to help protect Tsarnaev.

Tazhayakov is the first of three friends of Tsarnaev to be put on trial on charges related to hindering the investigation. Tsarnaev’s trial is scheduled to begin in November.

[Boston Globe]

TIME movies

Hollywood Eyes Film Based on Boston Marathon Bombing Survivor’s Story

Jeff Bauman Throws First Pitch At Fenway Park
Jim Davis—The Boston Globe/Getty Images Boston Marathon bombing victim Jeff Bauman threw out a ceremonial first pitch on May 28, 2013, at Boston's Fenway Park, where the Philadelphia Phillies played the Red Sox in a regular-season baseball game.

Three of the names behind the Oscar-nominated film The Fighter have reportedly signed on to produce a movie about Jeff Bauman

A gutsy survivor of the Boston Marathon bombings is to receive the silver-screen treatment with a film in the works about his remarkable story.

Jeff Bauman lost both his legs to the twin explosions while he was waiting for his girlfriend to complete the race. He penned a book, Stronger, about what occurred that fateful day and his long road to recovery.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Lionsgate won the deal to develop the picture and brought in Mandeville Films to produce. The project will be an adaptation of Bauman’s book, which he wrote alongside best-selling co-author Bret Whitter.

Three big names who worked on the Oscar-nominated feature The Fighter — Todd Lieberman, David Hoberman and Scott Silver — are producing the film, and actor John Pollono will take on writing the adaptation in his first feature-length project.

Three people were killed and more than 260 were injured when two pressure-cooker bombs exploded just seconds apart from each other as scores of runners were crossing the finishing line in Boston on April 15, 2013.

A manhunt ensued for suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and he was apprehended four days later. His brother and fellow suspect Tamerlan was killed in a shootout with police.

[The Hollywood Reporter]

TIME Crime

Prosecutors: Suspected Boston Bombers Used Christmas Lights, Model Car Parts in Explosives

Prosecutors say the sophistry of the explosives gave investigators reason to believe that the suspects may have had accomplices, prompting them to question Dzhokhar Tsarnaev while he was being treated in the hospital.

The suspected Boston Marathon bombers used parts from Christmas lights and model cars to construct the sophisticated explosives used in the attack, federal prosecutors said in a Wednesday court filing.

Federal prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the two suspects in the April 16, 2013 bombings that killed three people and injured 264 others. His brother and alleged accomplice, Tamerlan, died during a police shootout following the search for suspects.

Prosecutors said in the filing the sophisticated nature of the explosives gave reason to believe that the brothers received assistance, the Boston Globe reports.

“In short, the facts and circumstances known to law enforcement at the time they interviewed Tsarnaev provided ample reason to believe that the Tsarnaevs did not act alone,” the prosecutors said in the filing, according to the Globe.

Prosecutors also said the brothers appeared to have crushed and emptied fireworks containing black powder for the bombs, but investigators did not find significant traces of the powder at the brothers’ residences or cars.

The filing also argues the court should not suppress statements Dzhokhar Tsarnaev made to FBI agents while being treated in a hospital after his arrest because investigators had to determine if the suspect had accomplices who could have posed a threat. Tsarnaev’s defense has argued that the interrogations are inadmissible because he was interrogated without access to a lawyer.

[Boston Globe]

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