Accused Boston Marathon bomber pleads not guilty to 30 federal counts
BOSTON — When the public last saw accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, he was climbing out of a motorboat dry-docked in the backyard of a Watertown, Massachusetts, home.
He was covered in blood from bullet wounds sustained during a manhunt that brought greater Boston to a standstill. Tsarnaev was taken to hospital and he has been out of sight for the last 11 weeks.
Wednesday morning, the 19-year-old stepped back into the public eye, entering a federal courthouse in Boston to plead not guilty to the 30 federal charges he faces, including the killing of four people.
Some 260 people wounded in the Boston Marathon bomb attacks on April 15 were invited to attend. And hundreds are expected to.
Those who could not fit into the courtroom were allowed to watch the hearing from the overflow room.
Victims and their families tend to appear in person at trials at two key moments, said legal analyst Paul Callan: at the arraignment, and at the verdict and sentencing.
“It’s not something they want to watch on television. They want to be there,” he said.
The death penalty
Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino is confident about getting a conviction, he told the Boston Herald on Tuesday. “We should lock him up and throw away the key.”
But that won’t be enough for many victims and their families. And prosecutors will likely go for the death penalty.
Seventeen of the charges offer that possibility.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s lawyers will struggle to prevent a death penalty case, Callan said.
They will argue that he was under the “mesmerizing influence” of his older brother, Tamerlan, who died in a shootout with police after a wild chase through Greater Boston.
But Callan believes one piece of evidence will make it easy for prosecutors to shoot down that argument.
While he lay bleeding in the motorboat covered with tarp, the younger Tsarnaev apparently scrawled his motive for his alleged deeds onto its sides.
“The U.S. Government is killing our innocent civilians,” it read. “I can’t stand to see such evil unpunished.”
“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 (unintelligible) it is allowed.”
“Stop killing our innocent people and we will stop.”
“That would indicate that he was not under his brother’s influence, that he had an independent thought process and dedication to this movement on his own,” Callan said.
Prosecutors will use the writings to argue intent — that Tsarnaev knew what he was doing.
Indictment blow by blow
Tsarnaev is charged with killing three spectators in the bombings and a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer ambushed in his cruiser a few days later. He is also accused of “maiming, burning and wounding scores of others,” U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz has said.
But that is merely a handful of the charges.
Add to those use of a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death, deadly bombing of a public place, use of a firearm during a crime of violence causing death, carjacking, bodily harm. The list goes on.
The indictment details the planning that allegedly went into the attacks. Tamerlan Tsarnaev bought 48 mortars, it says.
It also says that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev downloaded a copy of Inspire magazine, which included instructions on building IEDs using pressure cookers and explosive powder from fireworks.
Pressure cooker bombs were used in the Boston Marathon attacks, exploding near the finish line.
Three days after the attacks, on April 18, the FBI released photographs of the brothers, identifying them as bombing suspects.
Hours later, they drove their Honda Civic to the MIT campus, where they shot and killed officer Sean Collier and attempted to steal his service weapon, the indictment says. They were allegedly armed with five IEDs, a Ruger P95 semiautomatic handgun, ammunition, a machete and a hunting knife.
The indictment alleges that late that night, the brothers carjacked a Mercedes in Boston using guns.
Soon after, police discovered the Tsarnaevs at an intersection in nearby Watertown, where they tried to apprehend them, but the brothers fired at the police and used four IEDs against them, the 74-page indictment alleges.
Police tackled the elder brother and were trying to handcuff him when Dzhokhar Tsarnaev got back into the Mercedes and drove it at the officers, according to the indictment. He wound up running over his brother, “contributing to his death.”
The younger Tsarnaev escaped, abandoned the car nearby and hid in the boat, where he remained until the owner noticed him and called police.
Tsarnaev will likely appear to be in much better shape than the last time he was seen in public.
In late May, he was allowed to have a phone conversation with his mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaev, who lives in the Russian republic of Dagestan. She recorded it and played it back to CNN affiliate ITN, based in Britain.
She asked if he was in pain.
“No, of course not. I’m already eating and have been for a long time,” Dzhokhar told her.
He assured her that he was getting much better.
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