Pittsburgh synagogue shooting suspect Robert Bowers appeared in court on Thursday morning, where he, through his attorney, pleaded not guilty to all of the 44 charges against him, WGBA-TV (Green Bay) is reporting.
Appearing in his prison-issue jumpsuit and shackled at the wrists and ankles, Bowers, 46, appeared before a judge to answer to charges related to last Saturday’s mass shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue, which claimed 11 lives.
Bowers looked about the room, and periodically at his attorney, as a judge read off each of the 44 criminal counts against him, 32 of which are punishable by the death penalty. Asked whether or not he understands the seriousness of the charges and the penalties for each, Bowers quietly answered “yes” each time. Then, through his attorney, public defender Michael J. Novara, he entered a plea of not guilty.
Novara later clarified to reporters that, this early in a criminal trial – especially such a high-profile one with such dire consequences – it’s not uncommon for a defendant to enter an initial plea of not guilty.
The prosecutor, U.S. Attorney Scott Brady, meanwhile, issued a statement saying that Bowers’ criminal trial begins what will likely be a long and difficult road for the victims and their families, according to WFTS-TV (Pittsburg).
“Today begins the process of seeking justice for the victims of these hateful acts, and healing for the victims’ families, the Jewish community, and our city.”
On Wednesday, the list of criminal charges against Bowers grew substantially, according to KDKA-TV (Pittsburgh). Prosecutors tacked on an additional handful of charges against the suspect based on his alleged assault on police officers. These additional charges, which also include hate crime charges, are likely to increase the chances that Bowers will be put to death.
As of this writing, the charges against Robert Bowers are, as follows:
- Eleven counts of use and discharge of a firearm to commit murder during and in relation to a crime of violence.
- Eleven counts of use and discharge of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.
- Eleven counts of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death.
- Eight counts of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs involving an attempt to kill and use of a dangerous weapon, and resulting in bodily injury to a public safety officer.
- Two counts of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs involving an attempt to kill and use of a dangerous weapon and resulting in bodily injury.
- One count of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs involving use of a dangerous weapon and resulting in bodily injury to a public safety officer.
It is not clear, as of this writing, when jury selection, or any other aspect of Bowers’ trial, will begin.