Boston marathon bombing accused pleads not guilty

Ethnic Chechen charged late last month with killing three people with homemade bomb

Wed, Jul 10, 2013, 21:13

Accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev pleaded not guilty to committing the worst mass-casualty attack on US soil since 9/11, a crime that could bring the death penalty.

The 19-year-old ethnic Chechen spoke clearly in court, repeatedly answering that he was “not guilty“ of charges that he killed three people by setting off homemade pressure-cooker bombs, assembled by him and his older brother Tamerlan, on April 15th and later shot dead a university police officer.

That shooting, and a later gun battle with police in the suburb of Watertown, Massachusetts, led to the death of 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev and a day-long lockdown of most of the Boston area as police searched for Dzhokhar. He was found, badly wounded, hiding in a boat in a backyard.

The marathon attack injured about 264 people, with many losing their legs.

Mr Tsarnaev’s appearance was the first time he has been seen in public since his April 19th arrest. He appeared in court today dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit, with his hair long and unruly and his left arm in a cast.

He looked around the courtroom, watching prosecutors as they spoke and occasionally glancing back at survivors of the attack and victims’ families in the gallery.

The biggest challenge for Mr Tsarnaev’s attorney, public defender Miriam Conrad, will be sparing him the death penalty, observers said.

Mr Tsarnaev appeared at US District Court in Boston - the same building where mobster James “Whitey” Bulger is currently on trial.

According to court papers, Mr Tsarnaev scrawled a note on an inside wall and beams of the boat in which he hid.

“The US government is killing our innocent civilians,” the note read, according to court papers. “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,” he wrote, according to court papers. “Stop killing our innocent people and we will stop.”

Mr Tsarnaev was badly wounded during the gun battle and arrest. After initially being confined at a city hospital, he was moved to a prison west of Boston. Prosecutors have declined to comment on his current condition or if he is still being held at the Fort Devens, Massachusetts, facility.

The Tsarnaev brothers’ ethnic homeland of Chechnya, a mainly Muslim area that saw centuries of war and repression, no longer threatens to secede from Russia. But it has become a breeding ground for a form of militant Islam whose adherents have spread violence to other parts of Russia.

Three people died in the April 15th bombing - 29-year-old restaurant manager Krystle Campbell, 23-year-old graduate student Lingzi Lu and 8-year-old Martin Richard.

Three days later the Tsarnaevs shot dead Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer Sean Collier, according to the indictment.

Reuters