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July 11, 2013

Marathon bombing suspect pleads not guilty

BOSTON — His arm in a cast and his face swollen, a blase-looking Dzhokhar Tsarnaev pleaded not guilty yesterday in the Boston Marathon bombing in a seven-minute proceeding that marked his first appearance in public since his capture in mid-April.

As survivors of the bombing looked on, Tsarnaev, 19, gave a small, lopsided smile to his two sisters upon arriving in the courtroom. He appeared to have a jaw injury and there was swelling around his left eye and cheek.

Leaning into the microphone, he told a federal judge, "Not guilty" in his Russian accent and said it over and over as the charges were read. Then he was led away in handcuffs, making a kissing gesture toward his family with his lips. One of his sisters sobbed loudly, resting her head on a woman seated next to her.

Tsarnaev, who has been hospitalized since his capture with wounds suffered in a shootout and getaway attempt, faces 30 federal charges, including using a weapon of mass destruction to kill, in connection with the April 15 attack, which left three people dead and more than 260 wounded. He could get the death penalty if prosecutors choose to pursue it.

The proceedings took place in a heavily guarded courtroom packed not only with victims but with their families, police officers, and members of the public and the media.

The Russian immigrant and former college student looked much as he did in a photo widely circulated after his arrest, his hair curly and unkempt. Wearing an orange prison jumpsuit, he appeared nonchalant, almost bored, during the hearing. The cast covered his left forearm, hand and fingers.

The bombing victims showed little reaction in the courtroom after a federal marshal warned them against any outbursts.

Liz Norden, the mother of two men who lost their right legs in the bombings, said afterward: "I actually felt sick to my stomach."

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