BOSTON (AP) — His arm in a cast and his face swollen, a blase-looking Dzhokhar Tsarnaev pleaded not guilty Wednesday in the Boston Marathon bombing in a seven-minute proceeding that marked his first public appearance since his capture in mid-April.
As victims of the bombing looked on, Tsarnaev, 19, gave a small, lopsided smile to his sisters upon arriving in the courtroom. He appeared to have a jaw injury and there was swelling around his left eye and cheek.
Then, after he leaned in toward a microphone and said, “Not guilty” over and over in a Russian accent, he was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs, making a kissing gesture toward his family with his lips. His sister sobbed loudly, resting her head on a woman seated next to her.
Tsarnaev faces 30 federal charges, including using a weapon of mass destruction to kill, and could get the death penalty if prosecutors choose to pursue it.
The proceedings took place in a heavily guarded courtroom packed not only with victims but with their families, police officers, members of the public and the media.
Tsarnaev looked much as he did in a photo widely circulated after his arrest, his hair curly and unkempt. He appeared nonchalant, almost bored during the hearing. The cast covered his left forearm, his hand and his fingers.
The bombing victims showed little reaction in the courtroom after a federal marshal warned them against any outbursts.
The April 15 attack killed three people and wounded more than 260. Authorities say Tsarnaev orchestrated the bombing along with his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who died following a gun battle with police and a furious getaway attempt three days after the attack.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was arrested on April 19, captured hiding in a bloodstained boat in a suburban backyard after a huge manhunt that paralyzed much of the Boston area. He was hospitalized with wounds suffered in the shootout.
His two sisters were in court in Muslim garb. One was carrying a baby, the other wiped away tears with a tissue. Tsarnaev’s parents remained back in Russia.
Tsarnaev’s lawyer Judy Clarke, an expert in death penalty cases, asked that the judge enter not-guilty pleas for him, but U.S. Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler said: “I would ask him to answer.”
Tsarnaev is also charged in the killing of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer and the carjacking of a motorist during the brothers’ getaway attempt.