Not guilty plea in syn­a­gogue shoot­ing.

The Mercury News Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - By Mo­riah Balin­git and Mark Ber­man

PITTS­BURGH » The man ac­cused of gun­ning down 11 con­gre­gants in a syn­a­gogue ap­peared in court Thurs­day morn­ing and pleaded not guilty to the dozens of charges he faces.

Robert Bow­ers, 46, has been charged with walk­ing into Tree of Life syn­a­gogue here on Satur­day morn­ing and open­ing fire while re­peat­edly ex­press­ing his de- sireto“kill Jews.” Au­thor­i­ties said Bow­ers killed 11 peo­ple in­side the syn­a­gogue, crit­i­cally in­jured two other con­gre­gants and also wounded four of the law en­force­ment of­fi­cers who ex­changed fire with him.

Bow­ers, wear­ing a red jump­suit, heard the charges against him, some of which could re­sult in the death penalty if he is con­victed.

Bow­ers ap­peared with Michael No­vara, his pub­lic de­fender, be­fore Mag­is­trate Judge Robert Mitchell. Un- like a court ap­pear­ance in front of Mitchell on Mon­day, when Bow­ers was seated in awheelchair, he walked into this hear­ing. Bow­ers was hos­pi­tal­ized for two days af­ter the shoot­ing af­ter be­ing shot mul­ti­ple times, but he has since been re­leased and is in fed­eral cus­tody.

Dur­ing the hear­ing, Bow­ers sat slouched over the ta­ble, wear­ing a fixed somber ex­pres­sion while pros­e­cu­tors listed the charges against him and re­minded him that he could re­ceive a death sen- tence if con­victed. He also re­quested a jury trial. No­vara, his pub­lic de­fender, had no com­ment Thurs­day.

In court doc­u­ments, of­fi­cials es­ti­mated Bow­ers’ even­tual trial could last be­tween three and four weeks. A sta­tus con­fer­ence in the case was sched­uled for Dec. 11.

Among the charges Bow­ers faces are 11 counts of ob­struc­tion of free ex­er­cise of re­li­gious be­liefs re­sult­ing in death. The Jus­tice De­part­ment has said fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors in Pitts­burgh have be- gun the process of seek­ing a pos­si­ble death sen­tence in the case; such de­ci­sions are made by the at­tor­ney gen­eral af­ter a re­view by fed­eral lawyers who spe­cial­ize in cap­i­tal cases. When the charges against Bow­ers were an­nounced, At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions de­cried the “in­com­pre­hen­si­bly evil and ut­terly re­pug­nant” al­le­ga­tions laid out in the in­dict­ment.

The at­tack on the syn­a­gogue was the dead­li­est on Jews in Amer­i­can his­tory. Among the vic­tims were two brothers who had at­tended the ser­vices each week since their child­hood, a doc­tor who led its To­rah stud­ies and a man who sat in the back and handed prayer books to peo­ple who ar­rived late.

Al­though no de­ci­sion has been made on a pos­si­ble death sen­tence, one of the fac­tors fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors can cite in seek­ing such a penalty is whether vic­tims are par­tic­u­larly old or young; six of the 11 vic­tims at the syn­a­gogue were at least 70 or older.

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