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Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Makes Court Appearance In Pretrial Hearing


Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev appeared in federal court today. It was his first public appearance in 17 months. The room was packed with victims and supporters, some of whom shouted on his behalf. It was the last hearing before his trial gets underway in January. Tsarnaev faces terrorism and murder charges which could result in the death penalty. NPR's Tovia Smith reports.

TOVIA SMITH, BYLINE: Tsarnaev scanned the courtroom as he walked in handcuffed with long, tousled hair and a scrappy, unkempt beard. He looked somewhat thinner and had a sideways sort of expression, perhaps a result of the injuries he sustained to his face and jaw during a shootout with law enforcement a few days after the bombing. When asked by the judge if he understood the proceedings, Tsarnaev answered yes sir. And as to whether he was satisfied with his public defenders, he replied very much. More than a dozen of victims of the bombing were in the courtroom, some limping and using a cane, like Marc Fucarile.

MARC FUCARILE: I'm just grateful I'm alive, and I'm happy that I'm able to be here and see what happens - like everybody else, I want to know what's happening, that's all.

SMITH: Fucarile shrugged off questions about reliving the bombing through the trial.

FUCARILE: Relive it - I still live it and I live it every day.

SMITH: A cluster of Tsarnaev supporters picketed outside and several got into court, including Elena Teyer, who shouted support to Tsarnaev in Russian before she was forced out. She's a relative of Ibragim Todashev, who was shot and killed by law enforcement investigating a different crime that the elder brother was suspected of being involved in. She says she believes the Tsarnaev brothers were framed.

ELENA TEYER: They love the U.S. They did not want to hurt anybody in the U.S. I know that for sure.

SMITH: Jury selection is set to begin January 5. Defense attorneys say they plan to ask for a delay. They're also asking to move the trial because they say they can't find impartial jurors here. One request has been denied, but a second is still pending. Tovia Smith, NPR News, Boston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tovia Smith is an award-winning NPR National Correspondent based in Boston, who's spent more than three decades covering news around New England and beyond.