Slatest PM: Dzhokhar's First Court Appearance

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
July 10 2013 4:23 PM

Slatest PM: Dzhokhar Pleads Not Guilty (For Now)

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A man reads a placard in support to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in Grozny on May 10, 2013.

Photo by ELENA FITKULINA/AFP/Getty Images

Dzhokar's First Court Appearance: Associated Press: "Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev ... has pleaded not guilty to 30 counts including use of a weapon of mass destruction to kill. He entered the plea Wednesday in federal court in Boston. For [the] first one, he leaned toward a microphone and said, 'Not guilty,' in a Russian accent. He then said not guilty repeatedly about a half-dozen more times. Federal prosecutors are weighing whether to pursue the death penalty for the 19-year-old Tsarnaev."

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Hardly a Surprise: Tsarnaev's plea doesn't rule out the possibility that he will eventually change his story. Holding out now provides the defense with leverage to later use a guilty plea as part of a larger deal that could spare the teen the death penalty—something that would appear to be the goal of the defense given Judy Clarke's position on the team. Clarke, you may remember, has an unmatched record of keeping high-profile public enemies off of death row. Her legal resume includes the defenses of Susan Smith, who drowned her two children in 1994; the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski; Atlanta Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph; and most recently Jared Loughner. All were spared the death penalty, instead receiving life sentences for their crimes.

The Scene in Boston: Boston.com: "Escorted by a Humvee filled with heavily armed law enforcement officers, a white prisoner van carrying Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev roared into US District Court in Boston today, rushing past about a dozen people who shouted encouragement to the alleged Islamic terrorist. Some of the supporters started chanting — 'Justice for Dzhokhar’' and 'Give him his freedom back' — as the motorcade took Tsarnaev into the Joseph Moakley courthouse... The shouts of support for the 19-year-old Tsarnaev... enraged a man who was walking past the courthouse. 'You are disgusting. You’re disgusting,' said the man who would not give his name. 'Don’t you know people died?’'"

Busy Day at the Courthouse: CBS News: "It was a busy day for Boston's Moakley Federal Courthouse security Wednesday, with two high-profile federal cases under the same roof: Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and reputed mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger. ... As tense as things were inside the courthouse, there was also quite a scene outside: gaggles of reporters, demonstrators, and of course, more police than on a usual day at 1 Courthouse Way."

It’s Wednesday. Welcome to the Slatest PM, where we’re rounding up the day’s top stories and relishing the fact that the week’s half over. Follow me, your afternoon news guide, on Twitter at @s_brodez and the whole team at @slatest.

Student Loan Stalemate: Los Angeles Times: "A proposal to extend lower interest rates for some federal student loans failed for the second time in the Senate on Wednesday, putting new pressure on Democrats to reach a compromise on the issue. A unanimous bloc of Republicans, joined by West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin and independent Angus King of Maine, voted against a procedural step that would have allowed the approach favored by Senate Democratic leaders to move forward. Their bill would reinstate for one year the 3.4% interest rate for subsidized Stafford loans that expired June 30. With no action in Congress so far, the rate has doubled to 6.8%."

Zimmerman Will Not Testify: ABC News: “George Zimmerman was asked under oath by the judge today whether he wished to testify in his murder trial for the death of Trayvon Martin and he answered in a quiet voice, 'Not at this time.' ... The day began with [Judge Debra] Nelson ruling that text messages taken from Trayvon Martin's phone and an animation commissioned by the defense purporting to show the fight between Martin and Zimmerman cannot be entered as evidence."

Quebec Crash Investigation Continues: Associated Press: “The head of a railway company whose train crashed into a Quebec town, killing at least 15 people, blamed the accident on an employee who he said had failed to properly set the brakes. Edward Burkhardt, president and CEO of the railway's parent company, Rail World Inc., made his comments Wednesday during his first visit to the town where some 60 people remain missing following Saturday's fiery crash. ‘It was questionable whether hand brakes were put in place at this time,’ Burkhardt said. ‘I don't think any employees removed brakes. They failed to set the brakes.’ … Quebec police inspector Michel Forget said they were pursuing a wide-ranging criminal investigation but had ruled out terrorism as a cause.”

Obama in Immigration Fray: Reuters: “President Barack Obama jumped into the immigration debate on Wednesday, releasing a report touting economic benefits from reforms and meeting with Hispanic lawmakers, as House of Representatives Republicans gathered to try to craft their response. The release of the White House report signaled a new outspokenness by Obama, who made immigration a top legislative priority but stayed on the sidelines of the debate that raged in the Senate in May and June. … Obama also was scheduled to meet with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus as he launches an offensive to pressure hesitant Republicans in the House of Representatives to act on comprehensive immigration legislation this year.”

Chill, NTSB Says: CNN: “The chief of the National Transportation Safety Board cautioned on Wednesday against jumping to any conclusion about what may have caused the crash on Saturday of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 in San Francisco. ‘At this point in the investigation, we are not reaching any conclusions,’ Deborah Hersman told CNN. ‘We're gathering factual information. We know a lot, and what we need to do is correlate all that information. We need to put it together and see what it tells us.’ … Asked about the failure of investigators to take blood samples from any of the four pilots -- all of whom are Korean -- to check for possible drug or alcohol use, she said investigators were checking on related requirements for foreign carriers operating in the United States.”

Mandela Responding to Treatment, Still Critical: Associated Press: “South Africa's president says Nelson Mandela is responding to treatment, though the 94-year-old's condition remains critical but stable after more than a month in the hospital. President Jacob Zuma visited the anti-apartheid leader Wednesday evening. In a statement that referred to the anti-apartheid leader by his clan name, Zuma said: ‘We are encouraged that Madiba is responding to treatment and urge the public to continue providing support and showering him with love which gives him and the family strength.’”

Snowden Defends Himself, Again: Guardian: "NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, in an interview on Saturday and then again Tuesday afternoon, vehemently denied media claims that he gave classified information to the governments of China or Russia. He also denied assertions that one or both governments had succeeded in 'draining the contents of his laptops'. 'I never gave any information to either government, and they never took anything from my laptops,' he said."

A Few More Quick Hits from Slate:

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