Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Made His First Public Appearance in a Year and a Half

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In this courtroom sketch, Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is depicted sitting in federal court in Boston Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014, for a final hearing before his trial begins in January. Tsarnaev is charged with the April 2013 attack that killed three people and injured more than 260. He could face the death penalty if convicted.  (AP Photo/Jane Flavell Collins)
Photo: Jane Flavell Collins/AP

These days Dzhokhar Tsarnaev spends most of his time in near “total isolation” in a Fort Devens prison cell, but on Thursday, the public got its first look at the accused Boston Marathon bomber since he pleaded not guilty to the long list of federal charges against him. Tsarnaev has skipped previous hearings, but prosecutors asked that he attend today, as it was his last opportunity to raise concerns about his legal team before his trial begins. He was sporting a black sweater and slacks, shaggy hair, and a slight beard. Tsarnaev smiled briefly when talking with one of his attorneys, and when asked if he’s happy with his defense team, he replied, “very much so.”

Many survivors of the attack and law-enforcement officers involved in the case were in court today for the 25-minute hearing. Tsarnaev got some words of encouragement from Elena Teyer, the mother-in-law of Ibragim Todashev, who was killed by FBI agents while being questioned about Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s involvement in the bombings and a 2011 triple murder in Waltham, Massachusetts. “We prayed for you. Be strong, my son. We know you are innocent,” she shouted in Russian. Then, as she was escorted out of the room, she yelled at law-enforcement officers in English, saying, “Stop killing innocent people. Stop killing innocent boys.”

In a previous hearing the defense team’s request to move the trial outside Boston was denied, and Attorney General Eric Holder has authorized prosecutors to seek the federal death penalty. (Though, as the New York Times explains, it’s unlikely that he’ll be executed.) Tsarnaev’s trial is set to begin on January 5 with jury selection.