Jury selection begins Monday in the trial of Pittsburgh ‘Tree of Life’ synagogue shooter Robert Bowers, who faces 63 charges that include murder and hate crimes.
The shooter killed 11 people and wounded six others on October 27, 2018 — a Shabbat morning — in what was the deadliest antisemitic attack ever committed on the soil of the United States. Three congregations shared the building in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood in the city.
Bowers, who could face the death penalty if found guilty, has pleaded not guilty to the charges, although he offered to plead guilty in exchange for life in prison. The offer was rejected at the time by the Trump Administration.
Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan Greenblatt warned that the impending trial, with its reprisal of the execution-like murders, was likely to be traumatic for American Jews.
“The country is going to have to undergo this unprecedented trial of the country’s worst mass killer of Jews,” Greenblatt said. “It’s going to be really hard, so I think our community is really going to have to buckle down and brace ourselves.”
Bowers’ defenses is being led by Attorney Judith Clarke, who represented another mass killer, the Boston Marathon bomber. The defense team claims Bowers suffers from schizophrenia and epilepsy, making it clear the intent is to present an insanity defense in a plea for life in prison.
Those who were in the synagogue at the time of the attack say they are bracing themselves for the ordeal of possible traumatic flashbacks as some may be called to testify.
Many of the synagogue’s congregants intend to gather on Sunday for a closure ceremony being held at the building the day before the trial begins, according to the Associated Press.
The building is about to undergo a major renovation that will create a worship space with a memorial center that will feature education about antisemitism and the Holocaust.