Attorney for Robert Bowers hopes to resolve Tree of Life case without trial
Accused Tree of Life gunman Robert Bowers pleaded not guilty Monday to new hate-crime charges filed against him, and his renowned attorney, Judy Clarke, expressed interest in a plea deal rather than a trial.
Bowers — with his feet shackled and his wrists chained to his waist — wore a red jail-issued jumpsuit and was clean-shaven.
He appeared alert and answered questions from prosecutors and the judge confidently, responding “yes” when asked if he’d read the charges against him.
Clarke, a San Diego-based attorney with a reputation for keeping notorious killers from the death penalty, joined Bowers’ defense counsel last month. Among her former clients are the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, and Zacarias Moussaoui, convicted of helping mastermind the 9/11 attacks.
Upon entering Bowers’ plea of not guilty to the 63 federal charges against him, Clarke noted the defense is “hopeful for a resolution without (going to) trial.”
In the meantime, he has pleaded not guilty and requested a jury trial.
Bowers is accused of opening fire inside the Tree of Life synagogue just before Shabbat services started Oct. 27, killing 11 worshippers among three congregations. Two other congregants were hurt, and five police officers were wounded in a shootout with Bowers on the third floor of the Squirrel Hill synagogue.
Twenty-two of the charges against Bowers are punishable by death. Prosecutors said they estimate a trial would last about three weeks — longer if the case is deemed a capital case, something that remains under review by the Department of Justice.
The hearing lasted about 10 minutes. Clarke declined to speak as she left the federal courthouse on Grant Street.
Two congregants of Dor Hadash, one of the congregations within the synagogue, attended the hearing.
“I think we have to be present and strong and not afraid and make ourselves be known as human beings, all of us, in this process,” said Donna Coufal, a Dor Hadash congregant and president-elect. “That’s all I know.”
Jon Pushinsky, another congregant, said they have been to previous hearings, and they want to show that Dor Hadash “will not be defined by this incident.”
“We’re going to be here as often as we can when there’s a court proceeding to show that we are there to watch the system do what it needs to do,” he said.
Pushinsky said he was struck the first time he saw Bowers in person.
“I expected to look into the face of evil,” he said. “And what I saw was a nonentity.”
Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .