Boston Marathon victims mull fate of suspect
Boston Marathon bombing victim Karen Brassard makes her way into the federal courthouse for the arraignment of bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Wednesday, July 10, 2013, in Boston. The April 15 attack killed three and wounded more than 260. The 19-year-old Tsarnaev has been charged with using a weapon of mass destruction, and could face the death penalty. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
Karen Brassard, 51, a homemaker from Epsom, has a lot of reasons to want to see Dzhokhar Tsarnaev die.
Her left ankle and right leg were injured in the Boston Marathon bombing in April. Her daughter and husband were also injured, and a friend lost both legs.
She hasn’t decided, though, whether Tsarnaev, 19, should get the death penalty if he’s convicted of killing three marathon spectators and injuring 260 others in the first deadly terrorist bombing in the U.S. since Sept. 11, 2001.
“It depends on the minute; it depends on the day. I have mixed emotions,” she said after attending Tsarnaev’s plea hearing Wednesday in federal court in Boston on crutches. “I get angry, but I also think he’s just a kid.”
She will get a chance to make up her mind as Tsarnaev’s case moves toward a trial that may last three months and have 80 to 100 witnesses. A date hasn’t been set. Tsarnaev, a naturalized American citizen, will be back in court Sept. 23 when a trial date may be discussed.
Tsarnaev pleaded not guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler in his first court appearance since he was found hiding in a boat in a suburban Boston backyard four days after the April 15 bombing and a day after he allegedly shot a police officer to death. He entered his plea in a hearing that lasted less than 10 minutes in a packed courtroom. He could face the death penalty for using a weapon of mass destruction.
Others have no doubt about what Tsarnaev’s fate should be if he’s found guilty.
A line of more than a dozen uniformed Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officers stood at attention outside the courthouse during the arraignment in honor of Sean Collier, a police officer for MIT in Cambridge. Tsarnaev and his brother, Tamerlan, ambushed and killed Collier in his cruiser in an attempt to take his gun, prosecutors said.
MIT Chief of Police John DiFava said he attended the arraignment to see Tsarnaev. “I wanted to take a look at this guy,” DiFava said after the hearing. “He’s a punk. He’s a typical bad guy.”
DiFava said he favors the death penalty for Tsarnaev.
“The man deserves to die if he’s found guilty,” DiFava said.
About half of the 110 seats in the courtroom were reserved for victims and their families and a separate overflow room was set aside for them, where the hearing was broadcast on closed-circuit television. Ten police officers conducted a security sweep of the courtroom six hours before the start of the hearing.
The uncle of two brothers in their 20s who both lost their right legs in the bombing said he believed he saw Tsarnaev “smirk” in the courtroom.
“I thought maybe he would come in with a different attitude, maybe look a little different, but he didn’t,” said Peter Brown, uncle of J.P. and Paul Norden of Wakefield, Mass. “We believe in the justice system and we’ll let that take its course.”
Their mother, Liz Norden, said seeing the bombing suspect left her drained.
“I actually felt sick to my stomach. It’s really emotional,” she said.
Brassard said she didn’t appreciate Tsarnaev’s sisters behaving “weepy” in court.
“I went in there not thinking I’d be emotional, but found myself frustrated” by his family’s behavior, Brassard said. “Certainly they have a right, but they still have their family member and now other people don’t.”
A half-dozen Tsarnaev supporters were outside the courtroom waiting for a seat hours before the start of the hearing. Duke LaTouf, 33, said he traveled from Las Vegas because he believes Tsarnaev was framed. He said he believes the government carried out the bombing as a test run for eventually seizing all the guns in the country.
Kim Napoli of Boston, whose daughters, ages 1 and 3, were near the bomb sites the day of the attack, also waited at the courtroom entrance for a seat. Her children were uninjured but continue to have nightmares, she said.
“She was robbed of her innocence that day,” Napoli said of her elder daughter.