(Reuters) - Protesters who say they support the accused Boston Marathon bomber will be allowed to demonstrate outside his trial, a U.S. judge ruled on Tuesday, denying a request by the defendant's lawyers to stop the assemblies.
In a brief electronic ruling, U.S. District Judge George O'Toole denied the request that attorneys for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev made in late December, saying that the small groups seen around the courthouse advocated "various conspiracy theories" about the bombings but did not speak for their client.
O'Toole had previously rejected the request in a closed court session, according to court records.
A small group of protesters have been an irregular presence outside the federal courthouse. Some of them contend that Tsarnaev was innocent and that the attack was orchestrated by or faked by government agencies for unclear reasons.
The bitter winter weather and repeated heavy snowfalls have led to some delays in court proceedings.
But during the final pretrial hearing on Dec. 18, 2013, a group argued with one of the victims of the April 15, 2013, attack, Marc Fucarile, who lost a leg. He gestured angrily to his leg, calling it proof of the incident, attracting significant media attention.
Tsarnaev is charged with killing three people and injuring 264 with a pair of homemade pressure-cooker bombs at the race's crowded finish line and with shooting dead a university police officer three days later.
He could face the death penalty if convicted.
Court officials said in a weekend e-mail that opening statements in the trial could come as early as next week.
(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by David Gregorio)