Emotions ran high outside a Boston courthouse Thursday when a Boston Marathon bombing survivor confronted two women voicing their support for suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
“That’s trickery?” Marc Fucarile told the two women as he lifted up his prosthetic leg as he walked in to see the 21-year-old suspect make a federal court appearance, WCVB-TV reported.
The women, Valerie Vanetta and Karin Friedemann, hoisted posters to a media throng, proclaiming Tsarnaev’s innocence and that of friend Ibragim Todashev, who was shot dead in 2013 by FBI agents in Florida as he was questioned about the bombings.
The women are among a group that believes Tsarnaev was set up in the April 15, 2013 bombing that killed three and injured more than 260 people.
Fucarile, walking in to watch the pre-trial hearing with the help of a cane, lost a leg and suffered other injuries in the blast.
He was among a packed courtroom on hand to see Tsarnaev make his first public appearance since July 10, 2013.
The federal terrorism suspect looked a bit different than the clean-cut photo that appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine months after the Marathon bombing. Tsarnaev smiled briefly as he walked handcuffed into the courtroom at U.S. District Court in Boston, never glancing at anyone in a court packed with supporters, lawyers and the news media. His hair was tousled and shaggy, reaching to the collar of his white shirt. He was sporting a slight beard as he took a seat next to his team of public defenders.
He fidgeted throughout much of the proceeding, wiping his nose, covering his eyes and adjusting his shirt but appeared relaxed and confident.
It was a stark contrast from his appearance 18 months ago, when he still wore a cast and other signs of his capture following an intense manhunt through the Boston suburbs.
Tsarnaev’s brother and alleged accomplice, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was killed as the siblings tried to flee authorities.
The brothers are also accused of killing MIT security guard Sean Collier.
Tsarnaev, wearing a black sweater over a white shirt and gray pants, spoke softly during the hearing when Judge George O’Toole asked whether he was satisfied with his legal representation.
“Very much so,” the defendant responded.
The proceedings were briefly interrupted by an outburst by Elena Teyer, the mother-in-law of a former friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
Ibragim Todashev was killed by FBI agents in Florida last year while being questioned about the bombings.
“We prayed for you. Be strong, my son. We know you are innocent,” Teyer yelled to Tsarnaev in Russian inside the court.
She later yelled in English as she was escorted from the packed room: “Stop killing innocent people. Stop killing innocent boys.”
O’Toole made no rulings Thursday, saying instead that he’ll rule on pending motions in writing. Among the motions is a defense effort to have trial moved from Massachusetts, where emotions about the case remain high.
Jury selection in Tsarnaev’s trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 5, though it could take up to a month as officials wade through a pool of 1,200 potential jurors needed because of the high-profile nature of the bombings.
Speaking outside after the hearing, Teyer said she has been in touch with Tsarnaev’s mother in Russia.
“She is asking us to pray,” she said of Tsarnaev’s mother, who is not expected to attend her son’s trial because of an outstanding warrant for her arrest on shoplifting charges. “It’s a very hard thing when you can’t help your child. She says he’s in God’s hands now — we’re just going to pray hard for him.”
Wearing a sign that read “FBI Stop Lies,” the Savannah, Ga., woman, who spoke with a Russian accent but claims to be an American citizen who served in the U.S. Army, said she believes Tsarnaev is being framed by the U.S. government.
“Look at their backpacks … they should look heavy,” the 45-year-old said, adding that much of the information released in the case does not make sense. “They said he shot himself but he didn’t have a gun,” she said, noting that the case appears filled with many discrepancies.
“For what reason would he do such an act to the American people?” she asked. “He’s an absolutely nice and sweet child. Everybody who knows him don’t (sic) believe he did it.”
Bev Ford reported from Boston, Mass.
With News Wire Services