BOSTON - Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev returned to court Thursday for the first time since he was arraigned in July 2013.

Security was tight at the federal courthouse in Boston for Tsarnaev's final pretrial conference.

During the brief court hearing, U.S. District Court George O'Toole Jr. made no rulings, saying he would rule in writing on pending motions, including the defense's latest push to move the trial out of Boston.

David Bruck, one of Tsarnaev's lawyers, told the judge that the defense plans to file a motion to delay the trial, which is now scheduled to begin Jan. 5 with jury selection. Bruck did not say how long of a delay the defense will seek.

At one point, the mother-in-law of Ibragim Todashev, who was shot and killed while being questioned by law enforcement after the bombing, called out to Tsarnaev in Russian. Elena Teyer said she told him: "We pray for you. Be strong, my son. We know you are innocent." Later, in English, she yelled to the law enforcement officers escorting her out of the room: "Stop killing innocent people. Stop killing innocent boys."

Three people were killed and more than 260 were injured when two bombs exploded near the finish line of the April 2013 marathon. Tsarnaev, who has pleaded not guilty to 30 federal charges, faces the possibility of the death penalty if he is convicted.

The courtroom was packed with FBI agents, police who worked on the case, and more than a dozen survivors and family members.

Outside, a man who lost his right leg in the bombings had a testy exchange with a small group of protesters holding signs supporting Tsarnaev and questioning whether authorities have proof that he is responsible for the bombings. Marc Fucarile held up his prosthetic leg, saying: "That's proof right there."

Trial is expected to last several months, and seating a jury alone could take weeks.