The man accused of setting off two deadly bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathonappeared dapper and relaxed Thursday in a federal courtroom in Boston, where he made hissecond public appearance since he was arrested and charged with the deadly terror attacks.Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 21, wore a black zip-up cardigan sweater and a calm expression as he satshoulder to shoulder with his defense team in in a packed room at the Moakley Federal HouseThursday.
Tsarnaev faces a slew of charges in the April 15, 2013 bombing, which left three people deadand as many as 264 injured.
His appearance was a far cry from the last time the public caught a glimpse of him. In his prior court appearance 17 months ago, Tsarnaev’s left arm was in a cast and the left side of his face appeared scarred and swollen. On Thursday, Tsarnaev’s face appeared more in tact, though his left eye drooped. His hair was curled and tousled, and he wore a light beard.
He faces death if convicted at the end of his trial, which is set to begin on January 5. AtThursday’s pre-trial conference, a federal judge said he remained concerned about media leaksthat have plagued the case.
US District Judge George O’Toole also called upon attorneys on both sides to remain tight-lipped about the case. Tsarnaev has invoked his right to waive appearances at all pre-trialconferences since his July 10, 2103 arraignment.
On Thursday O’Toole asked Tsarnaev if he understood the particulars of his case and whetherhis absence from federal court until now was his own decision.
Tsarnaev stood, and answered each question with a sturdy but clear, “Yes, sir.” He would spendthe next 20 minutes of the half-hour hearing adjusting his clothing, sitting with his hands folded,eyes either looking down at the table or at his three defense attorneys. O’Toole said a witnesslist and evidence would remain sealed until a jury is seated. That is expected to happen by earlyto mid-January.As Thursday’s proceedings wrapped up, and Tsarnaev was led away by a federal marshal, awoman’s outburst rang through the packed courtroom – it was in Russian. The woman left courtwithout incident, and told reporters in the elevator and outside that she said, in Russian, “Bestrong my boy.”
“I said in court, Jahar, you have a lot of supporters. We are here for you. We pray for you. Weknow you are innocent. Be strong, son. That’s what I said,” she continued.The woman identified herself as Elena Teyer, the mother-in-law of Tsarnaev’s friend IbragimTodashev. Todashev was gunned by an FBI agent while being quizzed over his involvementwith Dzhokar’s older brother Tamerlan in an unsolved Boston triple murder.Tamerlan Tsarnaev is the alleged mastermind of the Marathon Bombing. He was shot dead bypolice in Watertown.
Outside the courtroom, Tsarnaev’s supporters were out in full force, as they have been atprevious court dates. One woman, who calls herself “Carina,” held a sign that read, “FBIentrapment = false conviction.”
“We are here to support him. We want him to have a fair trial,” said Carina, who was in thecourtroom with Tsarnaev. “I hope it will be a fair trial, I don’t think that it will.”
Chris, a 25-year-old Boston resident who asked that his last name be withheld, said he attendedThursday’s court proceedings out of curiosity. “It’s such a huge case. I think they have everyright to be here protesting. This is actually a little bit toned down compared to other timesthey’ve been here.
Chris said he found it “upsetting” that supporters of the survivors or the survivors themselvesweren’t demonstrating. Still he said, “I think he’ll get a fair trial.”