Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who appeared in federal court Wednesday, faces the possibility of life in prison or the death penalty.
In a mild Russian accent, he said “not guilty” at least six times. With those words, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev punctuated his first appearance in a federal courthouse since being accused of carrying out a deadly twin bombing with his brother at the Boston Marathon on April 15.
Dressed in prison orange, with a black shirt showing underneath, Mr. Tsarnaev was told that the 30 criminal counts he’s accused of carry maximum sentences ranging from life in prison to the death penalty.
Prosecutors didn’t formally say in the hearing Wednesday whether they will seek the death penalty, but they said that the trial, with some 80 to 100 witnesses, could take three or four months.
US Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler set Sept. 23 as the next court date in the case.
Family members of both Tsarnaev and of the bombing victims watched in the courtroom, as did some onlookers who came to show support and sympathy for the Muslim youth.
Tsarnaev was clean shaven and topped by the mop of curly dark hair that’s familiar from prior photos. He became a US citizen after emigrating from Russia’s Chechen Republic as a boy.
His overall demeanor was calm, but at times during the brief hearing he fidgeted or seemed defiant in his body language.
He appeared to sneer as the judge prepared to formally review the possible punishments, and at times had the demeanor of a bored high school student.
A few times he stroked his chin.
Defense attorney Judy Clarke sought to enter the plea for him, but Judge Bowler asked that the defendant respond directly as the 30 criminal counts were summarized. The series of “not guilty” responses followed, with Tsarnaev speaking into a microphone.