The Justice Department Monday filed a criminal complaint in federal court in Boston charging Dzhokhar Tsarnaev with committing and conspiring to commit last week’s Boston Marathon bombings. The suspect, still gravely wounded, his breathing tube only recently removed, his interrogation evidently over, was given his “initial appearance” in the civilian case by virtue of a visit, at his hospital bed at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital, by a federal magistrate. Lesson: If the case is big enough the court comes to you when you can’t come to court.
Soon, Tsarnaev will be arraigned on the charges and he will enter some sort of plea. Even sooner, he will have a defense attorney to assist him (indeed, William Fick, of the Federal Public Defender’s Office in Massachusetts, already has been appointed). Absent a guilty plea, pretty soon we’ll all be talking about the propriety of change-of-venue motions and prejudicial pretrial publicity. This is how domestic bombing cases begin. Judging from the national conversation Monday, however, there is still a great deal of confusion over what’s happening, and why. Here are ten basic questions, and answers, on where we are and what’s likely to happen next.