News

Accused Boston bomber pleads not guilty

Accused Boston bomber pleads not guilty

Defense attorneys Miriam Conrad (L) and Judy Clarke (centre) flank Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as Judge Marianne Bowler (R) looks on in court in Boston, Massachusetts in this July 10, 2013 court sketch. Photo: Reuters/Jane Rosenberg

BOSTON (Reuters) – Wearing an orange prison jumpsuit, with his arm in a cast, accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev pleaded “not guilty” to committing the worst mass-casualty attack on U.S. soil since 9/11, a crime that could bring him the death penalty.

Appearing in court for the first time, the 19-year-old ethnic Chechen – a naturalized U.S. citizen – spoke clearly, answering seven times that he was “not guilty” and occasionally glancing back at the gallery, where survivors and victims’ relatives were watching.

Tsarnaev is charged with killing three people and injuring about 264 others by setting off homemade bombs – pressure-cookers filled with explosives, nails and ball bearings – assembled by him and his older brother, Tamerlan. Prosecutors say the brothers placed backpacks containing the bombs among the spectators near the finish line of the race on April 15.

Several days later, in the suburb of Watertown, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer was killed in a shootout, during which 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev died after his brother ran over him with car as he escaped. The ensuing manhunt resulted in a day-long lockdown of most of the Boston area until Dzhokhar was found, badly wounded, hiding in a boat in a backyard.

Tsarnaev’s appearance in the federal courtroom on Wednesday was the first time he has been seen in public since his arrest on April 19. His hair was long and unruly, his left arm in a cast and the orange jumpsuit, unbuttoned to the waist, revealed a black T-shirt underneath.

He fidgeted, scratched his face and looked around the courtroom, watching prosecutors as they spoke and occasionally looking back at about 30 survivors of the attack and victims’ families.

“He didn’t seem too shaken up by this. He didn’t seem affected one bit, but I’m not a mind reader,” said John DiFava, chief of the MIT police department, who attended the proceeding.

Tsarnaev is also charged in the shooting death of 27-year-old police officer Sean Collier.

DEATH PENALTY

The biggest challenge for Tsarnaev’s attorney, public defender Miriam Conrad, will be sparing him the death penalty, observers said.

Security was tighter than usual on Wednesday outside Boston’s U.S. District Courthouse, which is also the site of the ongoing murder and racketeering trial of mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger, now in its fifth week.

A handful of Tsarnaev supporters were outside and a few attended the proceeding.

“It was a little heartbreaking, but Dzhokhar and I have faith in Allah,” said one supporter, Mary Churbuck, who wore a shirt with Dzhokhar’s image and the slogan “Free the Lion.”

“He’s rolling with the punches,” Churbuck said. “There’s no evidence that he did do it. They don’t have any evidence of him putting his backpack down.”

According to court papers, Tsarnaev scrawled a note on an inside wall and beams of the boat in which he hid.

“The U.S. Government is killing our innocent civilians,” the note read, according to the papers. “We Muslims are one body, you hurt one you hurt us all.”

“Now I don’t like killing innocent people it is forbidden in Islam but due to said it is allowed,” he wrote, according to court papers. “Stop killing our innocent people and we will stop.”

Three people died in the April 15 bombing – 29-year-old restaurant manager Krystle Campbell, graduate student Lingzi Lu, 23; and 8-year-old Martin Richard. MIT police officer Collier was killed three days later, according to the indictment.

Prosecutors said the government planned to call between 80 and 100 witnesses and that the trial would likely last three to four months. A status hearing was scheduled for September 23.

Latest Headlines

today in Local

Maine Gets Sewage Funds, But Says It Needs More

GENERIC COUNTERFEIT MONEY

Maine officials say the $29.7 million they're receiving for wastewater treatment upgrades in seven facilities is a small portion of the more than $1 billion needed for similar projects over the next 20 years.

today in Local

Panel Makes Recommendations To Stop Domestic Abuse

generic-news

Creating a state database of concealed handgun permits and encouraging health care providers to screen patients regularly for physical abuse are among dozens of recommendations from a panel of Maine officials and law enforcement members who examined recent domestic violence homicides.

today in Local

University Of Maine Researchers Get Project Money

GENERIC COUNTERFEIT MONEY

Three University of Maine research scientists will receive grants from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for projects related to the fishing industry.

today in Local

Maine Man Says In Lawsuit Petco Rat Made Him Sick

GENERIC COURT LARGE

A Maine man who says he developed a serious disease after getting bit by a rat he bought at Petco has sued the pet supply retailer.

today in Local

Wilkerson, Close to receives degrees from Bates

college grad

LEWISTON, Maine (AP) - Pulitzer Prize winning author Isabel Alexis Wilkerson and Oscar-nominated actor Glenn Close are among four people scheduled to receive honorary degrees at the Bates College commencement.