Everyone Is Analyzing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s Body Movements

But an expert says it may be too soon to tell what his fidgety actions really mean.

Image via Associated Press

Image via Associated Press

His “bowed-head posture,” clasped hands, and refusal to look jurors directly in the eyes are obvious body gestures that anyone facing the death penalty and a looming months-long trial could inadvertently fall victim to in a crowded courtroom. But Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s movements and gestures could also be a telling sign about the suspect’s emotions.

“If someone is showing facial movements out of the social ordinary then they are intimidated. And this guy is intimidated,” said Boston College associate professor Joseph Tecce, an expert in detecting body languages as indicators of emotions and stress. “But is there anything miraculous about that? No. Not at this point.”

Tsarnaev has spent the last two days sitting before hundreds of potential jurors who could be picked to determine his fate during his upcoming trial at the federal courthouse in South Boston, and his hand gestures, body movements, and facial expressions have been scrutinized and described in precise detail—almost to an extreme—by reporters on the scene.

“Tsarnaev sitting there, fidgeting less than yesterday. Looks either down or glances to left at judge,” wrote the Boston Globe’s Milton Valencia on Twitter. “Tsarnaev doesn’t look at jurors. He does paw at his beard a lot.”

WBZ’s Jim Armstrong also noted the suspect’s wriggling and restlessness.

“As judge enters, an uncomfortable Tsarnaev again puts hands in and out of pockets; awkward,” he tweeted.

And later: “Tsarnaev sits at defense table, eyes cast down, picking at his fingers.”

Some reporters also noted that at times Tsarnaev appeared attentive, looking toward jurors. In other moments, he looked solely at the judge presiding the case, they said.

After reviewing a sample of tweets and observations forwarded to him by Boston, Tecce, who usually dissects a suspect’s or politician’s body language after examining video footage, said while Tsarnaev’s actions aren’t necessarily out-of-the-ordinary, they are somewhat revealing, especially when it comes to reports of the aversion of his eyes.

“What comes to mind for this guy is gaze-aversion. It sounds like he looks and doesn’t look a lot,” he said. “When this guy looks ahead and then looks to the side—he doesn’t look at the jurors, he paws at his beard a lot—those two things together is the Obama effect: you’re intimidated and can’t look somebody straight on. And as grandma once said, ‘if someone can’t look you straight in the eye, you can’t trust them.’ But that’s also an old wives’ tale.”

Tecce’s reference to the “Obama effect” comes from his interpretation of the president’s performance during the 2008 debates leading up to his election. He said in one debate with Senator John McCain, Obama looked away, or “averted his gaze,” more than 16 times in one minute.

“He was looking away because he was thinking, “oh, geez, this reporter’s going to nail me,’” said Tecce.

He said similarly, Tsarnaev could be doing this because “he’s under extreme duress,” which is a likely scenario given the fact that he is facing capital punishment for the attacks at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon.

“Pawing at a beard is tension release and nervousness. Taken together [with gaze-aversion], both say the same thing: he’s intimidated and nervous, and is expecting the axe to fall down over his head,” said Tecce. “If he looked, and then he didn’t look at the jurors at all, that fits gaze-aversion. Having your hands folded is another way of reducing tension. We do that when we want to hug ourselves and reassure ourselves.”

Because cameras aren’t allowed inside the federal courtroom, it’s difficult to get a precise reading of Tsarnaev’s actions. But Tecce said if anybody noticed rapid blinking from the suspect, that, too, could be an indicator that Tsarnaev is feeling the pressure.

“Eye-blinking demonstrates negative feelings. Whenever someone blinks fast, they are feeling physical and psychological pain,” he said. “Blinking a lot represents negative hedonia.”

Tecce said once the suspect has a chance to speak—if he does at all during the trial—it will be easier to figure out what his motives are.

“If we can get him speaking, and looking at his speech and body language together, then I could tell you the cadence of his speech, what he’s saying, and whether it’s time locked to looking away, and ‘blink storms’—three rapid blinks in a row,” he said. “Blink storms usually mean total loss of control and nervousness. Muscle tension is the single most important pathway in our body for releasing psychological tension. So muscle tension produces rapid blinks, and that means you’re experiencing tension.”

  • Mary Jo

    I would like to know if he’s feeling any kind of remorse.

    • toby3494

      Not now and if he did he wouldn’t say so. But in the many years to come, sitting in a prison cell, separated from others for his own safety..he WILL! And he deserves every minute of it.

      • Mary Jo

        You have no idea what he’s feeling. Sorry you are so filled with hate.

        • Mia003

          Mary you are a sick piece of work. Of course he is not he planned to murder and blow innocent people up for months and this is what he planned and set out to do and did. Wasn’t just spare of the moment thing. He also planned to go to New York and blow people up there after they blew people up in Boston, than he killed a cop and went to blew more people up well laughing joking and talking about girls, Iphones with his brother. Yeah sooo remorseful.

          • Mary Jo

            Again, another person who thinks they have the facts. Its cool that the prosecution team shares evidence with you.

  • Fachimus Minimus

    he dont feeling remorse because is innocent.

  • jeffJ1

    Is this article for real? Perhaps you can invite Shirley McClain to analyze his aura.

  • Fachimus Minimus

    Evidence suggesting that certain elements of the Boston Bombing may have been “staged” and/or a training exercise:
    A document entitled “Marathons: A Tale of Two Cities and the Running of a Planned Mass Casualty Event” was prepared by Richard Serino, head of Boston EMS, in 2008. He was promoted to be the FEMA head of operations the following year. He attended the 2013 Marathon.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htd2bKX8EtQ
    According to coach Ali Stevenson, University of Mobile, “They kept making announcements, to the participants, saying: ‘Do not worry….this is just a training exercise.”‘
    On April 15th, the day of the bombing, the following warning was posted on an internet forum: http://occupywallst.org/…/warning-laws-being-written-to-scr… I think it’s notable for the fact that it predicts that the blame is going to be pinned on a guy in his “late teens to early twenties” and that a raid was scheduled for Friday, the 19th.
    According to Constable James Canning, a disenchanted DHS employee warned him in February, 2013 about a staged event scheduled to take place at a major U.S city on the East coast, sometime in the middle week of April: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cVKL7qFj4QA

    Evidence of Faked Injuries at the First Bomb Site

    1. Mildred and Sara Valverde

    Some thoughts on this video:
    The sisters don’t appear to confer with each other after the bombing to talk about the following: What has just happened? Who is injured? What should we do now? etc.
    Neither sister show signs of looking for her daughter/niece. In another interview, Mildred claims to have had a son injured at the bombing as well.
    Neither sister behaves as if she were severely injured, until Sara makes her appearance on the stretcher. Mildred runs around the scene without even a cursory glance at her leg or foot (which were later alleged to be severely injured).
    Sara is supposedly injured so severely that she will later be faced with an amputation, but oddly focused on something in the vicinity of the camerman, who is located on the second story of a building….
    Mildred is being watched and intercepted by “busybody”, with whom she is clearly not friends, as she approaches the candy shop, only to be physically handled by her. “Busybody” then has no further contact with her.
    Mildred takes the time to take pictures of Jeff Bauman, while she is seriously injured, her sister is severely injured, and her son as well as her 10 year old niece are missing.
    Sara is taken away on a stretcher, while others with much more severe injuries are left unattended.
    The child does not seem injured *at all* immediately after the “bomb” has exploded. Nor do her jeans appear to have been damaged.
    The maker of the Valverde video did get a few elements wrong. Most importantly, he assumed that Mildred was pretending to be her sister Sara at the arraignment. That is not true. Mildred claims to have been seriously injured herself, and in another interview, made the statement that her sister Sara was “facing an amputation”.

    2. Karen, Ron, and Krystara Brassard
    I hesitate to add much to this video, because I think all angles are covered quite thoroughly. If you look carefully from 8:19-8:50 in the video, you can see Karen walking briskly and then even jogging as she fades into the distance.
    Ron claims to be terrified by the fact that he cannot see Krystara, while Krystara is present and accounted for at all times.
    When Krystara briefly appears directly behind the stretcher, she is seen running normally. (It is only when she runs at an angle along the side of the stretcher that she appears to “skip”). She can also be seen in another video walking normally around the scene, with no signs of injury. Never does she glance at the “shrapnel wounds” that are supposed to mark her “from head to toe”.
    Karen can be seen in another video exiting this scene and entering the candy store. It is when she returns from the candy store that the blood makes its first appearance.
    Karen retains her purse throughout her ordeal, and Krystara retains whatever electronic device she is carrying.
    3. Nichole and Michael Gross

    Michael makes his first appearance right near a bright light that was not supposed to be the site of the blast.
    He is initially carrying some sort of high tech device, but then mysteriously discards it.
    His forehead appears to be extremely burned, despite the fact that he seems to be nowhere near the blast site. His jacket appears to be singed.
    He does not appear to be in shock, does not call out to his wife, but just paces casually around the scene.
    Nicole never shows any signs of pain in her expression.
    Despite her severe leg injuries, photos reveal that she makes her final position about 6 feet away from her initial spot.
    4. Jeff Bauman and Christian Williams
    Christian Williams (the man with the hoody and sunglasses) is supposed to have suffered horrific injuries, including a partially degloved hand and nearly fatal leg wounds, and yet he heroically attends to Jeff within moments of the blast.
    However, although Christian and Jeff had such a significant interaction,this interaction is never mentioned/asked about publicly. Jeff does not mention Christian in his best-selling book.
    Jeff Bauman is seen with his head raised, in an abdominal crunch, for much of the scene. This requires a lot of energy -energy that a sudden double amputee would not be expected to have.
    Dr. Panter is photographed throwing a jacket at Jeff and then walking away. Jeff is photographed alone, while others with minor injuries are attended to.
    Jeff is left alone while others with less serious injuries are taken away on stretchers.
    Jeff is left alone while Nicole Gross is provided the only ambulance ride to the hospital. (This is despite the fact that the road was open to traffic, and dozens of ambulances were on stand-by).https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3DhYFeoK3IU
    Jeff is attended to by an unknown runner, despite the fact that he was surrounded by uniformed physicians and EMS workers, present in an official capacity.
    Only after many minutes have passed is Jeff finally plopped upright into a wheelchair and wheeled hundreds of meters away by non-medical personnel, including the bare-handed “cowboy” man, despite the fact that he was already noticed by physicians and EMTs. (The protocol for amputees would be to keep them as flat as possible, because they lose blood at such a fast rate). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eHWkRj5JfMc
    There is no blood trail to be seen as Jeff takes his famous wheelchair ride.

    5. Patrick Downes and his wife Jessica

    Patrick Downes’s wedding photo is notable, as he assumes a very awkward and unflattering stance that might indicate an existing prosthesis.
    The footage shows an uninjured leg, followed by a gruesome leg missing a foot. When he appears on the wheelchair, his foot reappears.
    The press doesn’t even question why this man wasn’t given priority over those with relatively minor injuries. Nobody questions why he wasn’t even provided a stretcher! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=taeS9FTNf4k
    As in the case with Jeff Bauman, none of the mainstream media addresses the absurdity of a man with such serious blood loss being placed upright in a wheelchair when there were dozens of ambulances available. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3DhYFeoK3IU

    6. Sidney and Celeste Corcoran

    Sidney claims to think that her parents were “gone”, while it appears from the footage that they were within her field of vision
    Sidney is on the ground with a nearly fatal femoral injury, but is made to stand up and move behind the fence by the man in the red shirt. Note that he does not lift up this nearly fatally injured woman himself.
    Note that there are dozens of EMS/Physicians in the area, but they are happy to let non-professionals attend to life threatening injuries.
    7. Victoria McGrath
    She claims that the ridiculous “tourniquette” (seen in the second photo in the article) saved her life.

    8. Bill and Mary Jo White

    This married couple doesn’t even look at each other to talk about what has just happened, or to see if the other one is alright.
    Note how long it takes for the white paper to show a hint of red.
    Note at 1:49 the appearance of a prosthetic limb (bottom right).
    Note the smoke that reappears on scene after having cleared.

    9. James Costello (He is from the second bomb site, which requires more complex analysis than the first, but I included him here, because this video is quite straightforward).
    James claims to have extensive injuries throughout his legs/stomach, pulling nails from his stomach. And yet he is walking around the area, yanking at his pants.
    As he approaches the fire truck with the “fireman” he does not appear to be in excruciating pain.
    The fireman appears to be abnormally concerned with James’s clothing. One might think that James’s extensive injuries and the many people with nearly fatal injuries would be his main priority.

    Evidence of Extreme Crime Scene Manipulation (at the first site):
    1. Benches which survived the explosion fully intact are later shown to be destroyed:

    2. Beginning at seven minutes into the following video, it is shown that something strongly resembling an “exploded” backpack is delivered onto the scene. Note that it only appears (next to the watermark) after the man with the white box appears on the scene.

    3. The Blast site is altered and “enhanced” as well. This is revealed in the first 5 minutes of the following video:

    4. Smoke seems to be unnaturally blown around first bomb scene.

    5. It also is evident in photographs that smoke reappears many seconds after it has already been cleared. This might suggest the use of smoke machines, possibly for the purpose of obscuring the view of witnesses.

    Evidence of police lies, silenced witnesses, manufactured confessions:

    1. The FBI initially claimed that they had never had contact with Tsarnaev. At the press conference to solicit “the public’s help” in finding the men, they pretended not to know who they were.
    Only after their mother insisted that her sons had repeatedly been contacted by the FBI did they admit that they had indeed had prior contact.

    2. Police spokesmen initially claimed that the brothers were responsible for robbing a 7-Eleven, and falsely claimed that a photo of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was taken from surveillance footage from the store.
    Thankfully, a 7 Eleven spokesperson happened to notice that the photo was NOT taken from a 7 Eleven store and worked diligently to get the media to change the story:

    “The suspect in the photos for that particular 7-Eleven robbery looks nothing like the suspects,” Chabris says. “The police or someone made a mistake. Someone was confused.”
    Elsewhere, Chabris stated:
    “I’ve seen the picture of the guy who did rob a Cambridge 7 Eleven store last night at 10:30, and let me tell you, he looks totally different than the [Tsarnaev brothers],” she said. “Not only that, the picture of the suspect that is on the news websites is taken from a store that is not ours.”
    3. Police claimed that Dzhokhar engaged in a “shootout” with them. It was later admitted that he was unarmed:

    4. Police initially suggested that Dzhokhar’s gunshot wound to the throat was “self-inflicted”.
    However, as noted above, it was later revealed that he was unarmed. Also, Dzhokhar’s attending physician at the hospital said that that the bullet “appears to have entered through the left side inside of his mouth and exited the left face,” and was “high-powered” enough to fracture his skull, and damage his inner ear, pharynx and part of the C1 vertebra.http://wgbhnews.org/…/unsealed-court-documents-describe-dzh…
    But this presents another problem: Photographs that were leaked of him exiting the boat don’t seem to reveal such a severe injury in that location. This has led some to speculate that he might have been injured after being taken taken into police custody.

    5. The murder of Ibragim Todashev
    This man, a friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was questioned in his own apartment by the FBI, and ended up being shot 7 times, including once in the back of the head.
    The FBI claims that he was about to confess to involvement in a triple murder at the time. Before his alleged confession took place, he was left alone with an officer known for brutality and other misbehavior. The audio recording was turned off. http://whowhatwhy.com/…/todashevs-killer-no-wonder-his-ide…/
    Officials told the press that he had lunged at the officer with a knife, or a razor blade, or a broom handle, or a sword, or various other implements, or that he had overturned a table. It is unclear why the officer turned his back on Todashev, or why he felt the need to shoot Todashev in the back of the head. It may be worth noting that Ibragim was recovering from knee surgery at the time. http://www.theguardian.com/…/fbi-agent-charges-ibragim-toda…
    6. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is said to have written a “confession” in the boat in which he hid.
    This “new evidence” is revealed on May 16, four weeks after Dzhokhar’s surrender.
    Miller claims that Dzhokhar “found a pen” in the boat.
    The “note” is said to include the following statements:
    “The U.S. Government is killing our innocent civilians.”
    “Can’t stand to see such evil go unpunished.”
    “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 [unintelligible] it is allowed.”
    “Stop killing our innocent people and we will stop.”
    Time magazine claims (rather audaciously, I might add), that this rather lengthy note was written “in his own blood”.
    http://swampland.time.com/…/5-new-revelations-from-the-bos…/ (I looked at the indictment, and this doesn’t seem to be the case, but it perhaps says something about the mainstream media that such preposterous claims can get past the editor’s desk).
    Please note that the mainstream press doesn’t ask why it took the FBI a month to reveal the existence of this “confession”.
    Nor do they ask how Dzhokhar, injured and hidden under a tarp at night, could have managed to see clearly enough to write such an elaborate “confession”, not to mention how it could be so legible.
    Initially, Dzhokhar was said to have written “Fuck America” and “Praise Allah” on the walls of the boat: http://abcnews.go.com/…/america-boston-marathon-bomb…/story… Although images of these statements were shown to the media, they now appear to have been scrubbed from the official story. Perhaps they realized that these words didn’t sound like Dzhokhar?
    It may be worth mentioning that two FBI agents who arrested Dzhokhar fall out of a helicopter to their deaths on May 17, 2014, the day after Dzhokhar’s “confession” is publicly revealed.

    • Mary Jo

      Your wallstreet link is dead but are you referring to the 4/15/13 post that was made around eight in the morning saying something was going to happen and an unstable young man was going to be blamed?

  • Jen

    I think he regrets what he did. Personally i think he is very embarassed because he knows what he looks like and everything he does will be on the news where all of his friends, family, and all the people who knew him will see it. He dosen’t feel good about himself and that is why he keeps looking down, and is restless. His eye is swollen, he feels ugly. He wonders what everyone is thinking, what the media will say and what every one he knows will think. His brother convinced him that what he was doing was justified. He knows now it wasn’t. He is a good kid, but boys and even men in general do stupid things. Guys do stupid things without thinking and don’t always use logic (I think most women would agree with me about this). He feels dead. He feels nothing because he sits in a cell all day without any human contact, family, friends. It really makes me mad when reporters say he seems diseinterested. They are older and they can’t read young guys like most younger people can. Coming from a girl who is 23 i can tell you i have many similiarites to tsarnaev’s personality. Such as they way he grew up. I would never ever ever hurt anyone, but i think me and him are alike in many ways. From what i have read ( and i have searched a lot) it’s amazing what we have in common. I really can understand him more than most would be able to. They can;t seem to relate. I know for a fact he did it. I do not beleive he is innocent, that i know for sure, but he is a guy who is very nervous and needs reasurance. I can see he gets that from his attorneys, however i get the vibe that his defense lawyers, may feel bad his parents aren’t there to support him and be with him. I can tell he needs his parents. He feels alone, scared, and still in shock that this is his new life. I know he wonders day after day thinking how the hell he got himself to this point. He is guilty but he is a good kid. A good kid, who supported his brother even though he probably did,t want to, but would never tell his brother no. He seems like he would never turn down helping anyone, so why would he turn down his brother, who scared him , and had authority over him? Thats a can of worms he didn’t feel like opening, so he shut his mouth and just didi it. It’s hard to see your family sitting behind you in court that you haven’t seem in mouths with a new baby and, sit there and not look back. He was dying for some type of contact with his family, so when he turned around and smirked, he was smirking at the baby. He couldnt stop himself from looking because he knew that would be it for quite a while. He clearly feels remorsefull. He just is ashamed. Men always fidget, especailly boys when they are nervous. Don’t read to much into this article, he is just overly stressed.

    • toby3494

      Yegads! “He is guilty but he is a good kid. A good kid, who supported his brother even though he probably did,t want to, but would never tell his brother no. He seems like he would never turn down helping anyone, so why would he turn down his brother, who scared him , and had authority over him?”

      What in the heck is wrong with you? He is a good kid? He maimed and murdered many people. Too bad you aren’t one of those girls who lost a leg..then we will see how good you think he is. Frankly I think you are delusional..well meaning, but delusional. Grow up!

    • Mia003

      I don’t know why some of you are trying to encourage people to pity him
      for being a horrible person. How the hell is that a good kid? First he
      is not a kid at 19 and he is no where good by any means. Go look at the
      photos again of the Marathon and say that again. The streets covered
      with blood everywhere and injured people with limbs blow of everywhere
      and dead people and severely injured people lying on the side walks. Oh
      yeah he regretted it so much when he saw what he did on the news and the
      people he blew up he went to go blow more people up! And you idiots
      stand up for him and he would blow you all up too and your families if
      he had the chance! If he blew your child’s legs off or killed them would
      you be standing up for him and saying he regrets it? Poor him and as
      long as he regrets it. The next thing we now these idiots are going to
      be making excuses for pedos too saying they “regret it”. He didn’t
      regret it when he was in the car laughing and joking with his brother on
      the way to kill more people. Of course a lot of murderers regret it
      when they get caught and have to face jail time but that’s only because
      they have to spend the rest of their life in jail do they regret. Being
      nervous does not mean you regret what you did to them.

      • Mary Jo

        How do you know he was in the car laughing and joking with his brother? People making up their own tidbits to prove a point is contemptuous. Please don’t refer to “Danny” because he can’t tell the same story twice.

  • Mia003

    He is nervous because he got caught and is scared to face the victims so they can tell him what he is and what he did to them ruining the lives they had! You know since he think it’s ok what he did and explained why in a note. Yeah someone that is really remorseful goes and shoots a cop after what they did horribly blowing people up and maiming people then goes and hijacks a man to go to New York and blow more people up while just talking and joking like it’s nothing. Like his lawyers said when he wrote that note he did expect to survive and he thought he was going to go to paradise with his brother but now he has to face the victims and the consequences of his evil acts. According to people he is used to getting his way and getting away with stuff and the whole family are some sick narcissist psychos that have no feelings for anyone but themselves. He thought he was going to get off easy with this and though he was going to go to heaven for murdering people but now he has to face consequences and the people he horrible maimed, injured and families of people he killed and THAT is why is he is nervous. I’m sure he knows they would like nothing more to punch these murderer like most evil murderers he is no different.

    • Linda MacDonald

      Where is the proof that he shot a cop?

  • Emma Peel (Mrs)

    Hmmm, could this nervous fidgeting have anything to do with the fact that the guy spent the past 18-19 months in solitary confinement – 23 hours a day alone in a small cell? Something most civilized countries call ‘torture’? Could it be sensory overload? Could touching his face a lot have anything to do with the fact that he was shot through the head, and might still feel the effects of it? Why not write about that?
    Noooo, just let someone who wasn’t even there analyze a load of subjective tweets. Ridiculous article!

  • Mumbles

    The “Obama Effect”? Give me a break.

  • Alice Magrane

    Really? If the suspect speaks it will be easier to figure out his motives? I would say we already know his motives…he scrawled them on the inside of the boat he was hiding in. No mystery there. No need of an expert to discern what we already know.