A small but vocal gaggle of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev supporters gathered at a federal courthouse in Boston Monday morning to support the suspected terrorist as defense attorneys and prosecutors held a brief status hearing ahead of his January trial.
Prosecutors say Tsarnaev, 21, killed three people and injured 264 by detonating two homemade pressure-cooker bombs at the Boylston Street finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013.
They also say he and his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, killed a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer three days later as they attempted to flee the city. Tamerlan died later that night after a gunfight with police.
The surviving Tsarnaev brother faces the possibility of execution if he is convicted.
Elena Teyer, the mother-in-law of Tsarnaev acquaintance Ibragim Todashev, was one of six women outside the courthouse speaking out against the justice system.
Todashev was shot and killed by federal agents in May 2013. Teyer held a collage of his autopsy photographs, and spoke of her outrage over his death.
"We are all here for justice," said Teyer, pointing to photographs of her son-in-law's dead body and explaining what she believes to be holes inconsistencies in law enforcement's account Todashev's death. "This is his autopsy, this is all [the] explanation… They came from Boston to kill my son-in-law. I know that for sure."
Todashev, 27, was shot seven times by federal agents during an interrogation in Orlando, Florida. Law enforcement officials said Todashev attacked an agent with a pipe while writing a statement about the Boston bombings and a Waltham triple homicide that took place in September 2011.
Investigators claimed Todashev had implicated both himself and Tamerlan Tsarnaev in the murders before he was killed.
Some of the other women outside court have publicly supported Tsarnaev in the past. Just as in previous demonstrations, Tsarnaev's supporters held signs featuring photographs from the marathon.
Arina Mondtag of Haverhillsaid she believes Tsarnaev and his late brother are being unfairly prosecuted.
"I believe the boys have been set up," she said, adding that the explosions may have been a result of gas leak or an inside job with "a bunch of crisis actors brought in."
"I haven't seen any actual evidence against them. I mean I've seen circumstantial evidence. Nothing that actually links them to what they are allegedly being accused of doing."
Mondtag described the justice system as "unbalanced."
"Unless you're lucky enough to have parents who are millionaires or you have a great job there are no resources for the defense," she said. "I've spoken to a lot of people… and most people are not surprised to hear that these kids are probably getting set up."
Karin Friedeman, a Boston resident, attended Monday's hearing. She believes the Tsarnaevs are being persecuted because they are Muslim, and that the media is to blame for the public's perception of their guilt.
"They are like maggots crawling on the dead horse of the U.S. constitution" for what she believes to be biased, sensationalized reporting.
"I have a feeling that there is a lot of misinformation that is being told," said Friedeman. "Now a days there are hundreds of Muslim prisoners in jail and most of their trials are based on innuendo and bigotry with the absence of any tangible evidence. So far it looks like that's how they're going to be running this prosecute too. Their expert witnesses are going to be going on about what Islamic beliefs are rather than [evidence.]"
Boston graduate student Sean Hughes, who debated with Tsarnaev's supporters outside Moakley Courthouse, believes massive support either for or against the Tsarnaev brothers is premature.
"There is so much evidence that the general population is not privy to that forming an opinion based on such a small amount of information is a real bad habit to take up. Unfortunately, it’s really easy to fall into conspiracy theories," said Hughes, later adding that theories regarding the brothers being "set up" are baseless.
"Most importantly, we have a timeline of events that haven’t even gone to court yet and a ton of evidence that only privileged eyes have seen," said Hughes. "There are certainly going to be inconsistencies that seem "suspicious." Despite all the evidence they claimed they had, I walked away from Moakley Courthouse today with one question unanswered; if the evidence was so damning, then why isn’t his defense team using it?"
Thousand potential jurors to be called
At least 1,000 potential jurors will be screened for Tsarnaev's trial, District Judge George O'Toole said at Monday's hearing, after attorneys requested a wide-ranging jury search.
The process of picking the 12 jurors and six alternates who will hear the case against Tsarnaev is meant to begin on Nov. 3 and last about a week, according to attorneys for both sides who last month requested a pool of 2,000 potential jurors.
O'Toole also said on Monday that federal prosecutors and attorneys for Tsarnaev will next meet for a status conference on Nov. 12, to continue discussing guidelines for his trial due to start in January. Tsarnaev did not appear in court Monday despite a request by federal prosecutors that he do so.
On Friday, O'Toole rejected a request by Tsarnaev's lawyers to throw out his sprawling indictment. The request was based on concerns aboutan under-representation of African-Americans and people over the age of 70 on federal juries. O'Toolealso denied a request to suppress evidence taken from Tsarnaev'sapartment, UMass Dartmouth dorm room and laptop computer, which defense attorneys argued were improperly seized.
Reuters contributed to this report.