The man accused of carrying out the vicious and deadly Boston Marathon bombing alongside his older brother will finally show his face in a Boston courtroom Thursday, 17 months after his first and only public appearance to date.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 21, waived his right to appear at pretrial conferences since his arraignment on July 10, 2013, The he pled not guilty to all 30 counts against him in connection to the April 15, 2013 Boston Marathon and its aftermath.
Tsarnaev's defense team said he will appear in court Thursday, at the prosecutors’ request.
The long-awaited trial begins Jan. 5. Federal officials said they expect a packed courtroom, overflowing with media, bombing survivors, Tsarnaev’s family and members of the public.
The trial is expected to run up to four months. As many as 100 witnesses may be called, according to federal prosecutors. If convicted, Tsarnaev could face execution.
Since his 2013 arraignment, Tsarnaev’s attorneys have tried unsuccessfully to move his trial out of Boston, citing heavy media coverage. They were successful in pushing back his trial date, but not by much. It was originally scheduled to begin in early November, 2014.
A defense motion in May asked U.S. District Judge George O'Toole to nix the death penalty, calling it unconstitutional. In court filings, Tsarnaev's attorneys pointed to the fact that execution is not permitted in Massachusetts, and said that the decision to attack the crowded marathon shouldn't be an “aggravating factor” in determining punishment.
On June 18, O'Toole called it “obnoxious” for federal prosecutors to try and use Tsarnaev’s alleged betrayal of the United States as grounds for execution if he is convicted.
Prosecutors had previously filed motions that the Chechen-born suspect's betrayal of the nation that took him in should be a factor in a jury's decision to execute him if found guilty.
“To draw a distinction between naturalized and natural-born citizen is inappropriate,” O'Toole said.
Tsarnaev’s appearance Thursday is scheduled for 10 a.m.