Dzhokhar Tsarnaev made his first court appearance denying all 30 charges against him while he blew a kiss to his sisters.
But to the disgust of the victims of the April Marathon bombing who had come to the South Boston courtroom to stare down the “face of evil”, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, failed to even glance in their direction.
He was dressed in an orange jump suit, with his arm in a cast as he was led into the court in handcuffs by a police officer in black gloves.
Despite the near fatal injuries following a dramatic shoot-out with police that killed his brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, he was able to stand up and enter a not guilty plea to the charges against him – 17 of which carry the death penalty. He is accused of killing three and injuring 264 others.
It had been unclear what Dzhokhar Tarnaev’s current condition was until those in the audience saw him.
Previously at the brink of death following a bloody shootout with police, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was able to stand in the courtroom and enter his pleas.
In spite of this, and what some called his “cocky” attitude as he entered, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had some apparent lingering physical problems in addition to the obvious issue with his cast hand.
The Boston Marathon alleged bomber continued to peer back at his family over the seven-minute hearing. He was led away in handcuffs and shackles as swiftly as he’d been led in.
But not before he repeated “Not guilty”, seven times over in an obvious Russian accent.
Four hours earlier, for an arraignment that took less than 10 minutes, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev arrived in a four-vehicle motorcade that included a van, a Humvee, and a state police car.
Prosecutors William Weinreb, Aloke Chak Ravarty, and Nadine Pellegrini said they intend to call between 80 and 100 witnesses to the stand over the course of a trial they said will likely last three to four months.
A huge police presence was in force and the courthouse jammed for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s appearance.
Space was reserved in the main courtroom for victims’ families, and emotions were high during the brief hearing as around 30 were in attendance alongside a dozen or so supporters.
One of the victims, MIT Police Chief John DiFava, who was also in the courtroom, said Dzhokhar Tsarnaev looked “smug”.
“I didn’t see a lot of remorse. I didn’t see a lot of regret,” he said.
“It just seemed to me that if I was in that position, I would have been a lot more nervous, certainly scared.”
John DiFava added: “I just wanted to see him. I wanted to see the person that so coldly and callously killed four people, one of whom being an officer of mine.”
Others who survived the two bombs exploding at the finishing line in April were in court.
Martin Richard, 8; Krystle Marie Campbell, 29; and Lingzi Lu, 23 were killed by the bombs, which were improvised from pressure cookers. Authorities say the Tsarnaev brothers also killed Massachusetts Institute of Technology officer Sean Collier days later while they were on the run.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s two sisters, both dressed in Muslim attire, sobbed as the charges against their brother were read.
One carried a baby, the other wiped away tears with a tissue. His parents remained back in Russia.
A group of about a dozen Dzhokhar Tsarnaev supporters cheered as the motorcade arrived. The demonstrators yelled: “Justice for Jahar,” as Tsarnaev is known. One woman held a sign that said: “Free Jahar.”
Brittney Gillis, a student at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev attended, came to the courthouse because she wanted to see the suspect. She said he used to walk her friend home in the evenings because he was worried about her being alone.
“He would walk her from the campus library to her dorm at night,” she said.
Some former high school wrestling teammates in attendance weren’t sure what to make of the accusation against their old friend.
One of them, Hank Alvarez, said Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was calm, peaceful and apolitical in high school.
“Just knowing him, it’s hard for me to face the fact that he did it,” said Hank Alvarez, 19, of Cambridge.
Another ex-teammate, Shun Tsou, 20, of Cambridge, called Dzhokhar Tsarnaev “a silent warrior type”.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev faces three murder charges from the bombing and a fourth from killing a police officer who was shot before the teen and his elder brother engaged in a gun battle before being captured.
It was the worst mass-casualty attack on U.S. soil since September 11, 2001 and could bring a sentence of the death penalty.
The biggest challenge for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s attorney, public defender Miriam Conrad, will be sparing him the death penalty, one observer said.
“I suspect that Miriam will start tomorrow by trying to change his image and make him look like the normal, average, clean-cut young kid,” Walter Prince, a former federal prosecutor in Boston who is now a partner with the law firm Prince Lobel told Reuters.
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.
Police set a line of metal barriers around the front of the fog-shrouded waterfront building, and uniformed officers with dogs were patrolling its perimeter. In addition to well over a dozen police cars and trucks, a Boston Police boat was moored close to the building’s side entrance – the normal entry point for suspects in custody.
The hearing is due to be brief, with Miriam Conrad perhaps entering a not guilty plea on his behalf, Walter Prince said.
Miriam Conrad did not respond to a request for comment.
According to court papers, Dzhokhar 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 court 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.”
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was badly wounded during the gun battle and arrest. After initially being confined at a city hospital, he was moved to a prison west of Boston. Prosecutors have declined to comment on his current condition or if he is still being held at the Fort Devens, Massachusetts, facility.
Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s ethnic homeland of Chechnya, a mainly Muslim area that saw centuries of war and repression, no longer threatens to secede from Russia. But it has become a breeding ground for a form of militant Islam whose adherents have spread violence to other parts of Russia.