Tree Of Life Shooting Suspect Robert Bowers Pleads Not Guilty

Joe DeStio
February 11, 2019 - 10:44 am

PITTSBURGH (Newsradio 1020 KDKA/AP) - The man accused of killing 11 people and injuring seven others at the Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill last October has pleaded not guilty.

Suspect Robert Bowers said little during the brief hearing before Federal Magistrate Robert Mitchelll Monday morning responding “yes” several times when asked about the charges and if he understood them.

Bowers attorney Judy Clarke indicated at one point that they might be open to a plea bargain, that would remove the chance of the death penalty, but there is no indication that one might be coming. Clarke's past clients have included one the Boston Marathon bombers, a 9/11 conspirator and Unabomber Ted Kaczynski.

One member of Dor Hadash, which meets at Tree of Life, was asked about the death penalty, “That’s not something we’ve discussed and I couldn’t say whether we’d . . . have an unanimous view on that.”

Donna Coufal, a member of the Dor Hadash said she attended Monday's arraignment "to bear witness. It's been a painful time, but we remain strong as a community."

This is the second time Bowers has been arraigned. The U.S. attorney’s office added hate crime charges last month for the shooting.

Bowers has been jailed in the Butler County Prison, about 35 miles (55 kilometers) north of the shooting scene. If convicted of the most serious offenses, he could be sentenced to life without parole.

A spokeswoman for federal prosecutors in Pittsburgh said a decision about whether to pursue the death penalty against Bowers remains under review.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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