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Jury selection begins in Pittsburgh trial of Tree of Life synagogue shooter

Prosecutors had rejected the defendant’s offer to plead guilty to evade the death penalty.

Mug shot of Robert Bowers, the suspect behind the shooting of 11 Jewish worshippers at Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Oct. 27, 2018. Credit: Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
Mug shot of Robert Bowers, the suspect behind the shooting of 11 Jewish worshippers at Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Oct. 27, 2018. Credit: Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

Attorneys began questioning potential jurors yesterday in the trial of a man accused of murdering 11 Jewish worshippers at the Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha Congregation in Pittsburgh on Oct. 27, 2018. Among the questions, according to reports, was whether candidates would be willing to impose the death penalty.

All four of the prospective jurors said they would consider the death penalty or life in prison, according to USA Today.

“One came out firmly in support of capital punishment, saying ‘there needs to be repercussions.’ Another said a house of worship ‘should have been a safe place’ and that she couldn’t imagine a worse crime,” wrote the paper. “But she also said that after sitting behind Bowers during a previous hearing, she realized ‘he’s a person, not a monster.’ ”

A Pennsylvania trucker, Robert Bowers, 50, tried to plead guilty in exchange for life imprisonment, but prosecutors declined. He faces 63 federal charges in a trial delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Under the previous White House, prosecutors were authorized to seek the death penalty for Bowers, although Attorney General Merrick Garland has paused executions. Attorneys for Bowers have argued that pursuing the death penalty with their client would be arbitrary, reported the Post-Gazette. Further jury selection is expected to take up to a month.

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