Robert Bowers Tree Of Life Mass Shooting Trial Begins
Robert Bowers who is a man from Pennsylvania trial is beginning for the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting that left 11 people dead back in 2018. According to police reports Robert Bowers went to the Tree Of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill Pennsylvania and would open fire killing eleven people and injured six more people. Along the injured were members of the local police force. Robert Bowers would be arrested and is being charged for eleven murder and six attempted murders in a US Federal Court.
As well as the murder and attempted murder charges Robert Bowers is facing a total of sixty federal charges. If he is convicted Robert Bowers could face the death penalty and spend the rest of his life on Federal Death Row.
The trial of Robert Bowers has faced multiple delays due to COVID and his defense team delaying the start of the proceedings. Today is the first actual day and potential jurors are being processed.
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The man accused of killing 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue in 2018 appeared in a federal courtroom Monday morning for the first time in more than four years.
Robert Bowers, 50, of Baldwin, was present in the eighth-floor courtroom of U.S. District Judge Michael Colville for the first session of the first phase of jury selection.
The court has mailed 1,500 summonses to prospective jurors. Under federal court rules, 12 jurors and up to six alternate jurors will be selected.
Groups of prospective jurors are scheduled to appear twice a day at the federal courthouse on Grant Street over the next two weeks. Each group will include about 75 prospective jurors. The first group gathered Monday morning to receive instructions on how to complete the extensive questionnaire that ultimately will be used to select the jurors who will hear the case.
Jury selection, which is expected to last several weeks, will officially begin with in-person questioning on April 24, Colville said. The trial is expected to begin in mid-to-late May and will last about two months.
Robert Bowers, dressed in a dark sweater and white dress shirt, sat in the middle of a team of four defense attorneys and stood to face the prospective jurors when asked.
No one, other than Colville, addressed those gathered during the 17-minute session.
The judge began the session by talking about the importance of jury selection and describing the charges Bowers faces.
He is charged with dozens of counts, including committing hate crimes resulting in death and obstruction of religion resulting in death, stemming from the Oct. 27, 2018, mass shooting at the Squirrel Hill synagogue.
“Eleven worshippers were killed and others were shot and injured,” Colville said, including police officers who responded to the attack. “The government is seeking the death penalty as punishment if Robert Bowers is convicted in this case.”
Colville briefly described potential sentences in the case, telling the jury that if Bowers is convicted, he could either serve a sentence of life in prison — there is no parole in the federal system — or be sentenced to death.
“Each juror must ultimately make an individual judgment,” Colville said.
The group of prospective jurors, after receiving the court’s instruction, moved to another room in the building to complete the questionnaire.
“Please do not discuss the questions or your answers,” Colville told them. “There are not right or wrong answers. All jurors have had different life experiences that inform their thoughts and views.
“The integrity of the process depends on your truthfulness.”
Colville instructed the prospective jurors to not read or watch any news coverage of the case or do any independent research. They may not discuss the case with their family or friends.
The judge also told the group to answer their questionnaires without regard to how their answers will be perceived.
“Please do not answer on what you think you should say or what you think is socially desirable,” Colville said.
The judge told the panel that once the trial begins, each court day will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays, with the exception of every other Friday.
The jurors are not expected to be sequestered.
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The American Jewish community is in mourning after a gunman killed 11 worshippers Saturday morning in a Pittsburgh synagogue in the deadliest attack ever on Jews in the United States.
Jewish organizations said the violence at Tree of Life synagogue underscored the dangers of unchecked hatred in a time when anti-Semitic acts are on the rise.
According to law enforcement, suspect Robert Bowers targeted Jews online and made anti-Semitic comments during the shooting. While receiving medical care, he told a SWAT officer that he wanted all Jews to die, according to a criminal complaint.
Robert Bowers, whom authorities believe acted alone, faces 29 federal charges, some of which are punishable by death. The US attorney in Pittsburgh, Scott Brady, is seeking approval from Attorney General Jeff Sessions to seek the death penalty against Robert Bowers, according to a Justice Department spokesman.
Robert Bowers is scheduled to make his first court appearance on Monday afternoon.
The shooting struck the heart of Pittsburgh’s historically Jewish Squirrel Hill neighborhood and reverberated across the United States, closing out a week of traumatic events with common roots in hate. President Donald Trump ordered flags flown at half-staff in honor of the victims.
On Sunday, visiting dignitaries joined community leaders, politicians and residents of the metropolitan Pittsburgh area at the University of Pittsburgh for an interfaith service. They pledged to support the community and fight hate speech.
“We will drive anti-Semitism and the hate of any people back to the basement, on their computer, and away from the open discussions and dialogues around this city, around this state and around this country,” Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said.
Sunday’s vigil, the second since the Saturday morning shooting, came as a fuller picture began to emerge of the suspect. The 46-year-old resident of suburban Baldwin was taken into custody after a shootout with police. He is being treated in a hospital for gunshot wounds.
“They’re committing genocide to my people,” Robert Bowers told police during the shootout, according to an FBI affidavit. “I just want to kill Jews”
Investigators searched Bowers’ home with a robot on Saturday and searched his vehicle on Sunday, the FBI said. They’re looking for surveillance footage from the area that could provide clues.
For weeks before the shooting, Robert Bowers targeted Jews in frequent posts on Gab, a social media platform that bills itself as “the free speech social network.” He used anti-Semitic slurs, complained that President Donald Trump was surrounded by too many Jewish people and blamed Jews for helping migrant caravans in Central America.
He also posted pictures of his handgun collection. Robert Bowers has 21 guns registered to his name, said Rep. Mike Doyle, whose district includes Squirrel Hill
Four hours before the shooting, Robert Bowers posted about Trump. Minutes before storming inside the building, he logged onto Gab again and wrote to his followers.
“I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered,” he wrote. “Screw your optics, I’m going in.”
Gab denied supporting violence and said its mission is “to defend free expression and individual liberty online for all people.” Gab said it has backed up the suspect’s profile data, suspended the account and contacted the FBI.
Robert Jones, the FBI special agent in charge of the Pittsburgh office, called the shooting “the most horrific crime scene” he’d witnessed in 22 years with bureau. It began as a peaceful morning as dozens of people filed inside the building to celebrate Shabbat services with three congregations, Tree of Life, Dor Hadash and New Light.
Rabbi Hazzan Jeffrey Myers with Tree of Life said the shooting began shortly after he started services at 9:45 a.m.
“My holy place has been defiled,” he said at Sunday’s service. He vowed to rebuild his congregation and called on those in the audience to do their part.
“Words of hate are unwelcome in Pittsburgh. It starts with everyone in this room, and I want to address for a moment some of our political leaders who are here. Ladies and gentlemen, it has to start with you as our leaders,” he said to a standing ovation.
“My words are not intended as political fodder, I address all equally. Stop the words of hate.”
Authorities on Sunday released the names of the 11 victims, all of whom were from Pennsylvania. They included a married couple, a pair of brothers and a beloved physician.
Joyce Fienberg, 75, Rose Mallinger, 97, Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, Cecil Rosenthal, 59, David Rosenthal, 54, Daniel Stein, 71, Melvin Wax, 87, and Irving Younger, 69, were from Pittsburgh. Richard Gottfried, 65, was from Ross Township and Bernice Simon, 84, and Sylvan Simon, 86, were from Wilkinsburg, Allegheny County Chief Medical Examiner Karl Williams said.
The Allegheny County medical examiner’s office said late Sunday that autopsies had been completed on the victims and all 11 died from rifle wounds with several suffering head wounds.
Six more people were injured: two police officers, two SWAT officers and two others, Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich said. Robert Bowers shot three of them, authorities said.
Five people were hospitalized, including the four officers. Two were in critical condition: a 55-year-old man with multiple injuries to his extremities, and a 70-year-old man with gunshot wounds to the torso.
One officer was released Saturday and three remain in the hospital. All four were “in good spirits” when visited by a union representative on Saturday, said Robert Swartzwelder, president of the Pittsburgh Fraternal Order of Police.
Squirrel Hill residents heard screams and gunshots coming from the synagogue. In minutes, police officers in tactical gear arrived and urged them to stay indoors.
Police said they received 911 calls about an active shooter around 10 a.m., five minutes after Bowers made his last social media post. When officers entered the building, they found the victims’ bodies and survivors hiding. They rescued at least two people from the basement and scrambled to evacuate people as they looked for the gunman.
Two officers encountered the gunman as he was attempting to leave the building, according to a criminal complaint. The gunman fired at them, shooting one officer in the hand before fleeing back inside the synagogue. The other officer suffered several cuts to his face from shrapnel and broken glass.
SWAT officers found Robert Bowers on the third floor of the building and exchanged gunfire with him until he surrendered, authorities said. Two SWAT officers were injured in the gunfight, along with Robert Bowers.
Bowers used a Colt AR-15 rifle and three Glock .357 handguns during the attack, police said. Bowers legally purchased the three Glock .357s, a law enforcement official familiar with the investigation told CNN. It’s not clear whether the AR-15 was purchased legally.
In addition to those four guns, investigators recovered a shotgun in the alleged shooter’s car that was not used in the shooting, Doyle said, referencing information he learned from law enforcement briefings.
Robert Bowers faces at least 29 federal charges, including 11 counts of obstruction of exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death, plus 11 counts of using a firearm to commit murder. A conviction on any could be punishable by death, US Attorney Brady said.
When asked if the shooting could be considered an instance of domestic terrorism, Brady said there would need to be evidence the suspect tried to propagate a particular ideology through violence.
“We continue to see where that line is. But for now, at this point in our investigation, we’re treating it as a hate crime.”
In the shootout with police, Bowers also faces four counts of obstruction of exercise of religious beliefs resulting in bodily injury to a public safety officer, and three counts of use and discharge of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.
He was also charged with 11 state offenses, including attempted homicide and aggravated assault.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum said the shooting is a reminder of “all the dangers of unchecked hatred and anti-Semitism, which must be confronted wherever they appear.”
In 2017, anti-Semitic incidents in the United States surged nearly 60%, according to the Anti-Defamation League. It found 1,986 cases of harassment, vandalism or physical assault against Jews and Jewish institutions last year.
The shooting drew sympathy from the Israeli government and its people. Mourners staged makeshift memorials in Jerusalem’s Zion Square and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on the phone with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf on Sunday to express his condolences. Israeli Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett traveled to Pittsburgh for Sunday’s service.
“Nearly 80 years since Kristallnacht, when the Jews of Europe perished in the flames of their houses of worship, one thing is clear: Anti-Semitism, Jew-hating, is not a distant memory,” Bennett said. “It’s not a thing of the past, nor a chapter in the history books. It is a very real threat.”
Adam Hertzman, director of marketing for the Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh, said it was too early to say if the community will add permanent security to synagogues in the area.
“Our focus at the moment is on mourning those who have passed and trying to comfort the people who are bereaved,” Hertzman said.
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