Alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev officially pleaded not guilty to using a weapon of mass destruction and 29 other counts during a short, pre-trial hearing on Wednesday. He has been accused of killing three three people and wounding more than 260 others.
Tsarnaev entered the courtroom in a prison jumpsuit, hair long, with shackles around his feet, shortly after 3:30 p.m. with a cast on his left wrist while members of his family were present in the courtroom, wiping tears from their eyes. WFXT's Sharman Sachetti reported his sisters showed up, a baby in tow, for the pre-trial hearing. The trial is expected to last about three to four months, and the prosecution expects 80-100 witnesses to take the stand. When Tsarnaev was prompted for a plea, his attorney Judy Clarke attempted to deliver the suspect's not guilty plea for him but the judge wouldn't accept that. Tsarnaev leaned forward into the microphone to deliver his own "not guilty" pleas, said in the ethnic Chechen accent of a naturalized American citizen, in the courtroom filled with with police officers from all over Massachusetts; the same ones who participated in the city-wide manhunt for the Tsarnaev brothers, 19-year-old Dzhokhar and 23-year-old Tamerlan, during that horrifying, tense week in April.
There was a huge police presence outside the courthouse on Wednesday to make sure none of the suspect's supporters or Boston faithful behaved irrationally:
Tsarnaev's fans (yes, they exist) showed up early with T-shirts and signs and Guy Falkes masks to demonstrate outside of the courtroom. Some were chanting "justice for Dzhokhar" and "give him his freedom back," as the motorcade carrying Tsarnaev approached the courthouse. The New York Times' Jess Bidgood reported about 3 dozen were allowed into the packed courtroom.
It was a very brief hearing, as these pre-trial events usually are. Tsarnaev was led out of the court room in handcuffs, but not before blowing a kiss to his family members. His next day in court is a status hearing on September 25.