By Denise Lavoie, AP
BOSTON, Massachusetts–Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev returned to court Thursday for the first time since he was arraigned in July 2013. Security was tight, tensions ran high and one bombing victim had a testy exchange with protesters outside.
U.S. District Court George O’Toole Jr. made no rulings during Tsarnaev’s final pretrial conference, saying he would rule in writing on pending motions, including the defense’s latest push to move the trial out of Boston.
David Bruck, one of Tsarnaev’s lawyers, told the judge that the defense plans to file a motion to delay the trial, which is now scheduled to begin on Jan. 5 with jury selection. Bruck did not say how long of a delay the defense will seek.
Three people were killed and more than 260 were injured when two bombs exploded near the finish line of the April 2013 marathon. Tsarnaev, who has pleaded not guilty to 30 federal charges, faces the possibility of the death penalty if he is convicted.
At one point during the hearing, the mother-in-law of Ibragim Todashev, who was shot and killed while being questioned by law enforcement after the bombings, called out to Tsarnaev in Russian in the courtroom. Elena Teyer said she told him: ��We pray for you. Be strong, my son. We know you are innocent.��
Later, in English, she yelled to the law enforcement officers escorting her out of the room: ��Stop killing innocent people. Stop killing innocent boys.��
Tsarnaev, 21, never flinched or acknowledged the shouts. He wore a black sweater and gray trousers and had a scruffy beard and a curly hairstyle similar to the one seen in earlier photos. He smiled to his attorneys and one patted him on the arm.
Asked by the judge if he believes his lawyers had acted in his best interests, he said: ��Very much.��
The courtroom was packed with FBI agents, police who worked on the case and more than a dozen survivors and family members.
Outside the courthouse, a man who lost his right leg in the bombings had a testy exchange with a small group of protesters holding signs supporting Tsarnaev and questioning whether authorities have proof that he is responsible for the bombings.
Tsarnaev’s trial is expected to last several months, and seating a jury alone could take several weeks to a month.