Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev made his first appearance at a federal court on Wednesday, arriving in a white prisoner van via police escort and whisking past a dozen supporters waiting outside, the Boston Globe reported.
Tsarnaev, 19, was set to be arraigned on 30 federal charges, including using a weapon of mass destruction in the April 15 bombings that killed three people and wounded more than 260.
Supporters outside the courthouse chanted, “Justice for Dzhokhar’’ and “Give him his freedom back," according to the Globe.
Tsarnaev, who could face the death penalty for the attack, appeared in court for the first time since he was found bleeding and hiding in a boat in a suburb days after the marathon explosion. His initial court appearance took place at a hospital, where he was recovering from injuries suffered in a shootout with police the day before in the Boston suburb of Watertown.
The courthouse was expected to be jammed for Tsarnaev’s appearance. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office said space is being reserved in the main courtroom for victims’ families, but she wouldn’t indicate how many planned to attend. Court officials have set aside an overflow courtroom to broadcast the court hearing for the media.
He had escaped in a hijacked car after running over his brother and alleged co-conspirator, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who died following a shootout with police. But he was found the next day after a lockdown in Watertown was lifted and a local homeowner noticed blood on the drydocked boat.
Tsarnaev’s arrest stunned people who knew him as a likable high school athlete in Cambridge, where he lived with his older brother after his parents left for Russia.
But prosecutors say Tsarnaev, a Muslim, wrote about his motivations for the bombing on the inside walls and beams of the boat where he was hiding.
He wrote the U.S. government was "killing our innocent civilians."
"I don’t like killing innocent people," he said, but also wrote "I can’t stand to see such evil go unpunished. … We Muslims are one body, you hurt one you hurt us all."
The indictment also said that, sometime before the bombings, Tsarnaev downloaded Internet material from Islamic extremists that advocated violence against the perceived enemies of Islam.
Three people – Martin Richard, 8, Krystle Marie Campbell, 29, and Lingzi Lu, 23, a Boston University graduate student from China – were killed by the bombs, which were improvised from pressure cookers. Authorities also say the Tsarnaevs killed Massachusetts Institute of Technology officer Sean Collier days later while they were on the run.
Numerous bombing victims had legs amputated after the two explosions, which detonated along the final stretch of the race a couple hours after the elite runners had finished.