Accused teen terrorist Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, pleaded not guilty to all 30 charges related to the deadly Boston Marathon bombings Wednesday in federal court.
The shackled suspect wore an orange jump suit and crooked smile as he entered the silent courtroom, and flashed a grin to a group of spectators seated in the first row.
His lawyers occasionally patted him in an apparent effort to offer comfort, however Tsarnaev did not appear emotional. Despite reports of severe injuries sustained during an April 19 shootout with police, Tsarnaev appeared healthy, with a full head of curly hair.
His self-described supporters, seated in the back of the courtroom, let out an excited “yes,” after Tsarnaev first spoke his plea, and were asked more than once by court security to quiet down.
Tsarnaev’s sister was also in the courtroom, whimpering quietly, wiping away tears and holding a cooing baby. She shielded her faced with a white headscarf.
Following his plea, Tsarnaev blew a kiss in her direction before being led out by federal marshals. The entire court proceeding was under ten minutes.
Prior to the hearing, there was a mad rush of people trying to get into the packed courtroom, which had seats reserved for 30 of the bombing survivors. One man was heard threatening to sue the court because he was disabled, and therefore felt he should be given priority seating.
Security was understandably tight, as lines grew outside the courtroom.
Journalists were pulled aside for snapping photographs of people waiting in line, and one queuing civilian was reprimanded after stepping away to get a soda.
Outside, demonstrators who demanded freedom for the accused terrorist and claimed the Boston bombing was a hoax clashed with local media who were present at the marathon finish line. One man, a Bostonian with a Dunkin’ Donuts coffee in hand, told the demonstrators that they were “F–ckin’ sick.”
Survivor Karen Brassard was hounded by media as she entered the court on crutches.
It was the first time Tsarnaev has appeared in public since his April 19 arrest in Watertown, where he was found injured and hiding in a dry-docked boat. His brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was killed during a shootout with police, is also suspected of organizing the April 15 attack.
Seventeen of the charges brought against Tsarnaev carry a potential death penalty.
A media frenzy ensued after the arraignment, as survivors and family members left the building. Two self-described “Jahar supporters” said they were pleased with Tsarnaev’s not guilty pleas.
Donning a “Free the Lion” T-shirt and wiping away tears, Lacey Buckley, 23, of Washington state, told reporters she was not convinced Tsarnaev was the culprit behind the deadly terror attack.
“I’m happy he pleaded not guilty, but it was sad to see him in that situation,” said Buckley, making no mention of the victims. “It’s hard to see him in handcuffs like that.”