Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, the man charged with carrying out the Boston Marathon bombings, arrived in court on Thursday morning, his first public appearance in nearly a year and a half.

Tsarnaev was attending the last court hearing taking place before his trial begins early next month. Defendants do not generally go to the so-called status conferences, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts, but Tsarnaev’s lawyers had said beforehand that he planned to attend.

As a result of this rare appearance by Tsarnaev, a large media crowd gathered at the courthouse, as did victims of the bombing and supporters of Tsarnaev.

Boston marathon bombing victim Marc Fucarile (R) confronts two demonstrators outside the courthouse. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

At the hearing, someone supporting Tsarnaev was

while yelling about his innocence. She was later identified as Elena Teyer, the mother-in-law of Ibragim Todashev, a Chechen man connected to Tsarnaev.

Todashev, a friend of Tsarnaev’s brother, was

in Orlando, Fla., last year; the agent said Todashev


Tsarnaev faces 30 charges involving the placement of the bombs, which killed three people and wounded more than 260 others on April 15, 2013. The indictment says that Tsarnaev “used a weapon of mass destruction” seeking to cause death, destruction and serious injuries. He is also charged with shooting and killing Sean Collier, an MIT campus police officer.

He was last seen publicly in July 2013, pleading not guilty to the charges during a hearing in a federal courtroom in Boston. At the time, he was still wearing a cast, one of the remnants of the frantic gun battle that ended with Tsarnaev on the run and his brother, Tamerlan, dead. Ultimately, after a manhunt that paralyzed the greater Boston region for nearly a day, Tsarnaev was discovered and captured while hiding in a boat next to a home outside Boston.

Since Tsarnaev last appeared in public, the U.S. government has said it will seek the death penalty in this case. A judge agreed to postpone Tsarnaev’s trial, which was originally scheduled to begin in November, but he declined requests from the defense team that the trial be moved away from Boston.

Tsarnaev has spent his days since that court appearance in almost complete isolation, kept away from other prisoners and rarely let out of  his cell, according to court documents.

The trial is set to begin on Jan. 5 with jury selection.

This post has been updated.