Boston Bomb Suspect Pleads Not Guilty in Court AppearanceErik Larson and Janelle Lawrence
Karen Brassard, a 51-year-old homemaker from Epsom, New Hampshire, has a lot of reasons to want to see Dzhokhar Tsarnaev die.
Her left ankle and right leg were injured in the Boston Marathon bombing in April. Her daughter and husband were also injured and a friend who was with Brassard at the time lost both of her legs.
She hasn’t decided, though, whether Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old bombing suspect, should get the death penalty if he’s convicted of killing three marathon spectators and injuring 260 others in the first deadly terrorist bombing in the U.S. since Sept. 11, 2001.
“It depends on the minute; it depends on the day. I have mixed emotions,” she said after attending Tsarnaev’s plea hearing yesterday in federal court in Boston on crutches. “I get angry, but I also think he’s just a kid.”
She will get a chance to make up her mind as Tsarnaev’s case moves toward a trial that may last three months and have 80 to 100 witnesses. A date hasn’t been set. Tsarnaev, a naturalized American citizen, will be back in court Sept. 23 when a trial date may be discussed.
Tsarnaev pleaded not guilty yesterday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler in his first court appearance since he was found hiding in a boat in a suburban Boston backyard four days after the April 15 bombing and a day after he allegedly shot a police officer to death. He entered his plea in a hearing that lasted less than ten minutes in a packed courtroom. He could face the death penalty for using a weapon of mass destruction.
Others have no doubt about what Tsarnaev’s fate should be if he’s found guilty.
A line of more than a dozen uniformed Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officers stood at attention outside the courthouse during the arraignment in honor of Sean Collier, a police officer for MIT in Cambridge. Tsarnaev and his brother, Tamerlan, ambushed and killed Collier in his cruiser in an attempt to take his gun, prosecutors said.
MIT Chief of Police John DiFava attended the arraignment because he said he wanted to see Tsarnaev. “I wanted to take a look at this guy,” DiFava said after the hearing. “He’s a punk. He’s a typical bad guy.”
DiFava said he favors the death penalty for Tsarnaev.
“The man deserves to die if he’s found guilty,” DiFava said.
Tsarnaev wore an orange prison-issued jumpsuit and was handcuffed behind his back when he entered and left the courtroom. Before Tsarnaev was escorted from the courtroom by authorities after the hearing, he turned and made a kissing motion toward his two sisters, both wearing head scarves. One held a baby and the other one wept as she left the courtroom.
About half of the 110 seats in the courtroom were reserved for victims and their families and a separate overflow room was set aside for them, where the hearing was broadcast on closed-circuit television. Ten police officers conducted a security sweep of the courtroom six hours before the start of the hearing. The murder trial of reputed crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger is taking place in an adjacent courtroom.
Tsarnaev’s dark hair was as shaggy as in the photographs of him that circulated before his arrest, and his left wrist was in a cast. He fidgeted in his chair, twisted his jaw, rubbed his chin and bit his cheek. One of his lawyers, Judy Clarke, patted his back as prosecutors spoke.
Tsarnaev stood with his lawyers and calmly answered in an accent, “not guilty” repeatedly as the charges against him were read. Clarke attempted to enter the plea on his behalf before Bowler said Tsarnaev must answer himself.
Spectators in the courtroom were silent but strained to get a look at Tsarnaev when he entered. About 30 victims and family members were in court yesterday, the judge said.
The uncle of two brothers in their 20s who both lost their right legs in the bombing said he believed he saw Tsarnaev “smirk” in the courtroom.
“I thought maybe he would come in with a different attitude, maybe look a little different but he didn’t,” said Peter Brown, uncle of J.P. and Paul Norden of Wakefield, Massachusetts.
“We believe in the justice system and we’ll let that take its course,” Brown said outside the courthouse. “Nothing is going to change for our family.”
The mother of the two injured men, Liz Norden, said seeing the bombing suspect left her drained.
“I actually felt sick to my stomach. It’s really emotional,” she said, adding that both of her sons are focused on their recovery, not Tsarnaev.
Brassard said she didn’t appreciate Tsarnaev’s sisters behaving “weepy” in court.
“I went in there not thinking I’d be emotional, but found myself frustrated” by his family’s behavior, Brassard said. “Certainly they have a right, but they still have their family member and now other people don’t.”
Lacey Buckley, 23, was among a half dozen Tsarnaev supporters -- mostly young women -- outside the courtroom who waited for a seat hours before the start of the hearing. The resident of Wenatchee, Washington, who said she traveled alone to Boston for the hearing, said she hasn’t seen enough evidence to believe Tsarnaev is the bomber.
“They almost murdered a kid who was unarmed,” said Buckley, who runs a website supporting Tsarnaev. She wore a black T-shirt with the words “Free the Lion, July 10.” Tsarnaev used a photo of a lion on his Twitter account.
Duke LaTouf, 33, said he traveled from Las Vegas to attend the hearing because he believes Tsarnaev was framed. He said he believes the government carried out the bombing as a test run for eventually seizing all the guns in the country.
Kim Napoli of Boston, whose daughters, ages 1 and 3, were near the bomb sites the day of the attack, also waited at the courtroom entrance for a seat. Her children were uninjured but continue to suffer from nightmares, she said.
“She was robbed of her innocence that day,” Napoli said of her elder daughter. “She knows things can go wrong. She thinks a marathon is people running away.”
“They seem young,” Napoli said of Tsarnaev’s supporters. “They seem obsessed, like people who need something to do. Some young girls like the bad boy.”
Yesterday’s arraignment came about two weeks after a U.S. grand jury that heard detailed evidence from investigators in secret returned a 30-count indictment against Tsarnaev.
Tsarnaev killed two women and an 8-year-old boy and injured 260 people April 15 with bombs left in crowds near the marathon’s finish line, prosecutors said. Tsarnaev, an ethnic Chechen, was inspired by al-Qaeda and motivated by the U.S. military’s killing of Muslim civilians, the government said.
Tsarnaev is also charged in the 74-page indictment with the death of Collier, the MIT police officer.
Collier’s shooting at point-blank range on the evening of April 18 set off an overnight manhunt that led to Tsarnaev’s capture and the death of his brother Tamerlan, 26, who is suspected of carrying out the bombing with him.
Three days after the Boston Marathon bombing, the FBI released pictures of the Tsarnaev brothers taken near the scene of the blasts, before authorities had identified them. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s friends recognized him, prosecutors said.
That night the brothers armed themselves with five homemade bombs, a gun, ammunition, a machete and a hunting knife and drove to the MIT campus, prosecutors said. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, along with his brother, shot Collier and tried to steal his gun, prosecutors said.
The Tsarnaevs then carjacked a Mercedes and stole $800 from the driver using his ATM card and forced him to drive them to a gas station, the U.S. said. They told the driver they planned to drive to Manhattan before he escaped, the government said
Police officers located the brothers with the vehicle and engaged in a shootout, during which the siblings threw four of the explosives at authorities, the U.S. said. Three officers eventually tackled Tamerlan Tsarnaev after he was shot and tried to handcuff him.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev ran over his brother while driving away, contributing to his death, the U.S. said.
Tsarnaev eluded the police by hiding in a boat in the backyard of a suburban Boston home. He wrote messages on the wall and beams of the boat, the U.S. said.
“The U.S. government is killing our innocent civilians” and “I can’t stand to see such evil go unpunished,” he wrote, according to the indictment. He also wrote, “We Muslims are one body, you hurt one you hurt us all” and “Now I don’t like killing innocent people it is forbidden in Islam but due to said [unintelligible] it is allowed,” the U.S. said.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s personal computer held instructions for making bombs with pressure cookers and powder from fireworks, as well as files related to al-Qaeda and jihad, according to the indictment. He also wrote notes saying that while Islam condemns murder, the bombing was justified because of the actions of the U.S. government, prosecutors said.
Tsarnaev downloaded a digital copy of a book with a foreword by Anwar Al-Awlaki, the al-Qaeda propagandist killed by a U.S. drone in Yemen in September 2011, and a publication called “Defense of Muslim Lands, the First Obligation After Imam,” by Abdullah Azzman, known as the “Father of the Global Jihad,” the U.S. said.
According to the indictment, in the weeks before the attack the brothers bought dozens of fireworks and traveled to a firing range in Manchester, New Hampshire, where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev rented two 9mm handguns and bought 200 rounds of ammunition and engaged in target practice for about an hour.
Yesterday’s hearing was initially scheduled for May 30. It was pushed back after defense lawyers asked for more time to review evidence. U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz agreed to the delay.
Tsarnaev’s defense team includes the San Diego lawyer Clarke, who specializes in death-penalty cases and represented “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski and 1996 Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph. The U.S. hasn’t said whether it will seek a death sentence for Tsarnaev.
The “clock hasn’t started” for the government to decide to seek the death penalty, Christina DiIorio-Sterling, a spokeswoman for Ortiz, said in an interview yesterday. “It’s obviously quite a process.”
Tsarnaev’s lawyers on May 20 won a court ruling giving them access to their client’s suicide watch logs in jail and other data kept to track his behavior behind bars.
The judge, who ruled in response to a sealed defense motion, gave the government access to the same files. The prison where Tsarnaev is being held is also required to give defense lawyers his daily activity logs and psychological files.
Bowler denied a request that defense attorneys be allowed to take periodic photographs of Tsarnaev as evidence of “his evolving mental and physical state.” The judge ruled that prison staff will take the pictures and share them with both sides.
Tsarnaev’s lawyers argued the images would show his “injuries over time” and might be used in arguments about whether his earlier statements to authorities were made voluntarily. Bowler didn’t specify which statements the legal team was referring to in the sealed request.
Tsarnaev was questioned by federal agents in the hospital over about two days before being informed of his right to remain silent and seek legal counsel. The delay was permitted as part of a public-safety exception to reading suspects their rights before questioning.
Tsarnaev’s initial court appearance was held on April 22 in his hospital room after his questioning. He was wounded in the head, neck, legs and hand in gunfights with the police. He is now in the Federal Medical Center Devens, a lockup in Ayer, Massachusetts.
Bowler angered some conservative lawmakers in Washington by advising Tsarnaev of his constitutional rights at the start of the hospital hearing. The Justice Department said protocol had been followed. The case is to be tried before U.S. District Judge George O’Toole in Boston.
Bowler said yesterday that she wants to see more documents in the case made public and that many have been filed under seal until now. The public “has a right to know” how the case is being managed, she said at yesterday’s hearing.
The case is U.S. v. Tsarnaev, 13-10200, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston).