Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Appears in Court

The Boston Marathon bombing suspect attended a hearing, his first appearance in more than a year.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

Courtroom sketch via AP/Jane Flavell Collins

Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev appeared in front of a packed courtroom Thursday for the first time in more than a year.

He sat between his attorneys Judy Clarke and Miriam Conrad wearing beige slacks, a black sweater, and a white collared shirt, which he adjusted frequently throughout the hearing. He had an old mop haircut and a light beard under his chin.

The left side of his face was still visibly swollen from injuries he sustained during a shootout with police in Watertown, and his left eye was only open halfway. Clarke patted him lightly on the back before the proceedings began.

He rubbed his injured eye with his index finger as he responded to Judge George O’Toole Jr.’s questions. O’Toole asked him about his absence from previous status hearings, “Have you elected not to be present?”

“Yes sir,” he answered quietly.

O’Toole also asked Tsarnaev if he approved of his defense.

“Very much,” said Tsarnaev.

In the hearing, attorney’s arguments offered a brief glimpse into the upcoming trial. Prosecutors argued the defense should turn over more information on the expected testimony from expert witness Janet Vogelsang. Vogelsang is a clinical social worker. The defense is calling her to “identify risk and other factors in the defendant’s background and environment.” The prosecution wants the defense to disclose a list of the people she spoke to and the arguments she plans to make beforehand.

Prosecutor William Weinreb says he expects Vogelsang to say that, “Tamerlan told everyone what to do and the defendant was influenced by him,” and the prosecution should be given time to prepare a counter argument.

“She will be channeling a huge [amount] of hearsay at the sentencing hearing,” said Weinreb.

The defense is set to disclose their witness list to the government on December 29. This list will remain sealed from the public until after the jury is selected.

This is the final hearing before jury selection begins on January 5.

“All the other motions we’ll reserve and deal with on the papers,” said O’Toole.

Still on the table is the defense’s second motion to move the trial out of Boston, due to “emotionally charged” media coverage. O’Toole has ruled against their previous motion to argue the trial in Washington DC.

O’Toole also stated he may make a ruling concerning leaks from law enforcement to Boston magazine regarding Khairullozhon Matanov, an associate of Tsarnaev’s facing charges for lying to federal agents and obstruction. O’Toole said he reviewed the leaked FBI notes but will wait to make a decision regarding the leaks until the judge in Matanov’s case, Judge William Young, makes a ruling first.

O’Toole is also set to address issues surrounding jury selection.

At the close of the hearing there was an outburst from a woman identified by reporters as Elena Teyer, the mother-in-law of Ibragim Todashev. She exclaimed something in Russian before yelling, “Stop killing innocent people! Stop killing innocent boys!”

Teyer was then escorted out of the courtroom by US Marshals. Todashev was shot to death by a Boston FBI agent in his Orlando apartment in May 2013. Todashev allegedly implicated himself and Tamerlan Tsarnaev in a gruesome triple murder in Waltham in 2011 before he was killed. The case is still open and Judge O’Toole has ruled not to disclose information about the case to Tsarnaev’s defense.

Tsarnaev’s trial is set to begin on January 5. He is being tried capitally. The death penalty has been abolished in Massachusetts since 1984 but is still applicable under federal law. Massachusetts has not executed someone since 1947.