Alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev pleaded not guilty Wednesday afternoon to 30 charges relating to his supposed involvement in April’s deadly terrorist attack that claimed four lives.
Tsarnaev, 19, entered his plea during his first public appearance in court Wednesday. More than half of the charges lobbed against him potentially imply the death penalty.
WCVB News in Boston reported that Tsarnaev entered the court at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday dressed in an orange prison suit. David Frank of the Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly reported that the defendant had his left hand in a cast but otherwise appeared healthy.
“Tsarnaev is not showing any signs of injuries. His family is crying,” added WCVB’s Sean Kelly.
According to Kelly, the prosecution intends on calling upwards of 100 witnesses to stand trial and expects the proceedings to go as long as four months. His next court appearance, a status conference, is scheduled for September 23.
Wednesday’s hearing lasted less than ten minutes and was attended by family members of the victims of the bombing as well as Tsarnaev’s family and supporters.
Tsarnaev’s first public appearance in a courtroom comes two weeks after a Massachusetts federal grand jury returned a 30-count indictment against him. The charges include using weapons of massive destruction, killing three Boston Marathon spectators, and also shooting a police officer to death.
The first public court hearing are for the judge to explain Tsarnaev what penalties exactly he may face. Seventeen of the 30 charges brought against him are capital offences.
Sparing Tsarnaev this worst scenario is believed to be the biggest challenge faced by his attorney, public defender Miriam Conrad.
The death penalty was banned in Massachusetts in 1984, but only for state cases, while Tsarnaev is being charged under federal law, which means he could still face capital punishment if found guilty.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, an ethnic Chechen and a US citizen, is accused of setting off homemade pressure-cooker bombs on April 15 in the middle of the crowd watching the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring more than 260, with many of the injured eventually losing their legs. Dzhokhar was allegedly acting together with his elder brother Tamerlan, 26, who supposedly masterminded the attack.
Later, while being on the run from police, the brothers allegedly shot dead an MIT police officer.
After several days of manhunt, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was detained, following a gun battle with police, in which Tamerlan was killed. The younger brother, severely wounded was found in a boat in the suburb of Watertown, Massachusetts.
The alleged bomber reportedly scribbled his statement on the inside wall of the boat.
“The US government is killing our innocent civilians,” it read, as cited by prosecutors. “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. Stop killing our innocent people and we will stop.”