BOSTON - Shaggy-haired, bearded and attentive, accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev made his first public appearance in 17 months Thursday, at a brief court hearing before his trial next month.
Tension was high at the US federal court in the northeastern city where the April 15, 2013 attack killed three people and wounded 264 - the worst such incident in the United States since 9/11.
A woman yelled out support for Tsarnaev in Russian at the end of the hearing. On the way into court, one of the victims angrily showed his artificial leg to demonstrators proclaiming the suspect's innocence.
Dressed in a black sweater and gray pants, a skinny 21-year-old Tsarnaev with unruly curls sat between two female lawyers in the packed court room to hear preparations for his January 5 trial.
He answered questions from Judge George O'Toole calmly and quietly in the brief session that lasted less than half an hour.
"Very much so," he said when asked if he was satisfied with his representation.
Tsarnaev is accused of carrying out the attacks with his brother, Tamerlan, who was killed in a shootout with police, and faces the death penalty.
He pleads not guilty to 30 charges.
The attacks plunged Boston's world-famous marathon into mourning and revived fears of terrorism in the United States more than a decade after the Al-Qaeda hijackings.
Trial could last months
Thursday's hearing was the first time he has been seen in public since entering his not guilty plea in July 2013.
At the time he was suffering from injuries from his time on the run. On Thursday he seemed in good health.
At the end, Elena Teyer, whose son-in-law Ibragim Todashev was shot dead by an FBI agent while being questioned in May 2013 about his friendship with Tamerlan, cried out in Russian.
"You have a lot of supporters. We all pray for you, we all know you're innocent," she said. "Stop killing innocent people!" she added in English before being forced out.
Families of the victims, with drawn faces, were separated from the rest of the public in the gallery.