By Jana Curry
Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev faced arraignment Wednesday, July 10, 2013, afternoon in Boston. This marks the suspect’s first public appearance since his arrest. Three people, Martin Richard, 8, Krystle Marie Campbell, 29, and Lingzi Lu, 23, were killed by the bombs, which were made from pressure cookers. Authorities say the Tsarnaevs also killed Massachusetts Institute of Technology officer Sean Collier days later while they were on the run.
His brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was killed in a shootout with police following a massive manhunt three days after the bombings. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured the next day, wounded and bloodied from the shootout, after a Watertown homeowner noticed blood on his boat cover. Police found the suspect hiding inside.
Authorities say the brothers were inspired by al-Qaeda publications and that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev left a confession in the boat justifying the bombings as payback for U.S. military action in Muslim countries. He wrote the U.S. government was “killing our innocent civilians.” One note stated, “I don’t like killing innocent people… can’t stand to see such evil go unpunished… We Muslims are one body, you hurt one you hurt us all.” The indictment also noted that sometime before the bombings Tsarnaev downloaded Internet material from Islamic extremists that advocated violence against the perceived enemies of Islam.
At the John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse, the 19 year old Chechen native was arraigned in federal court in Boston on 30 charges, including using a weapon of mass destruction to kill. Tsarnaev was handcuffed and wore a baggy orange jumpsuit. His bushy shaggy hair lay atop his head as dark circles were under his eyes. He had a wound on the left side of his face and a cast on his left arm.
The 30-count indictment against Tsarnaev includes 17 charges carrying the death penalty or life imprisonment. Aside from bombing related counts, it also contains charges covering the slaying of a police officer and the carjacking of a motorist during the getaway attempt that left Tsarnaev’s older brother, Tamerlan, dead.
Victims of the Boston Marathon bombings, their families, police officers, members of the public, supporters, ex-classmates, and the media packed a courtroom to await the arraignment of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on terrorism charges. Tsarnaev’s two sisters, both dressed in Muslim garb, were there. One was carrying a baby, while the other wiped away tears with a tissue. Although media is not allowed to record, film, or photograph inside a federal court, social media, especially Twitter, allowed media outlets to describe exactly what was going on and what was being said inside the jam packed courthouse.
Survivors of the attacks and their friends and family were stunned by Tsarnaev’s cocksure attitude in the courtroom. He appeared calm and nonchalant as he leaned back in his chair. Tsarnaev flashed a crooked smile, some saying it looked like a smirk, and blew a kiss to his sisters who were sitting behind him. He yawned and rubbed his face during the eight-minute proceeding before Judge Marianne Bowler and said, “Not guilty” seven times in a Russian accent. Pleading not guilty to all 30 counts.
Aside from the abundant amount of victims and critics, there were a great number of supporters. Wearing T-shirts and holding signs saying, “Exonerate, free Jahar [a nickname].” Some were chanting “Justice for Dzhokhar’’ and “Give him his freedom back.” Some supporters believe U.S. government was actually responsible for the attack.
NYC resident Karina Figueroa, 35, told the Boston Globe that she believes Tsarnaev is wrongly accused. “I’ve seen a lot of videos showing inconsistencies,’’ said Figueroa. “They are framing him, I believe. I want him to be exonerated.’’ On behalf of everyone else in America, one counter-protester shouted at the group, “You guys are a bunch of scumbags.”
Among his biggest supporters are his parents, Zubeidat and Anzor Tsarnaev. Still in Makhachkala, Dagestan, his mother and father did not attend the arraignment, but were able to speak to him via phone. During the conversation, Zubeidat Tsarnaev says Dzhokhar was trying to calm her down and did not ask her what was happening outside of his cell.
Zubeidat plays a recording of her conversation with Dzhokhar with the United Kingdom’s Channel 4. In the only conversation he’s had with his mother since his arrest, Tsarnaev reassures Zubeidat he’s being fed well, chicken and rice, and is collecting cash, unsolicited, as people send money to support him.
“He said, ‘Mama, do not worry about me, I do have money, somebody opened an account for me, and people do send me money here, and I do have lots of money,'” Zubediat recounted. He told her he has raised a thousand dollars, Zubediat said. That’s in addition to the $8,000 Zubeidat and Anzor have already raised for the teen’s defense fund.
The parents have been adamant the brothers were set up and continue to proclaim their innocence. Similar sentiment is evident in Dagestan and Chechnya, where mistrust of the authorities runs deep and graffiti shouts Dzhokhar is innocent across the towns’ walls and buildings. “It is terrible what happened, but I know, my kids did not do it,” Zubeidat said.
Many speculate that the public will finally be able to see Tsarnaev because he might be arraigned in state court for the murder of the MIT officer. Tsarnaev remains in custody of US Marshalls. The court believes that the trial will take 3 to 4 months due to the 80-100 witnesses that have come forward to stand trail. His next court date has been set to September 23rd.