Accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was due in court yesterday to face charges in the worst mass-casualty attack on US soil since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, a crime that could bring the death penalty.
The marathon attack injured about 264 people, with many losing legs.
The 19-year-old ethnic Chechen was charged late last month with killing three people by setting off homemade pressure-cooker bombs assembled by him and his older brother in a crowd of thousands of marathon spectators on April 15, and later shooting dead a university police officer.
That shooting and a later gunbattle with police in Watertown, Massachusetts, led to the death of 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Dzhokhar’s brother, and a day-long lockdown of most of the Boston area as police searched for Dzhokhar, who was found badly wounded in a boat in a backyard.
The biggest challenge for Tsarnaev’s attorney, public defender Miriam Conrad, will be sparing him the death penalty, one observer said.
Tsarnaev’s appearance at the US District Court in Boston will likely be brief, with Conrad perhaps entering a not guilty plea on his behalf, said Walter Prince, a former federal prosecutor in Boston.
The court papers show that 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.”
Tsarnaev was badly wounded during the gunbattle 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.