Jury selection continues in Pittsburgh synagogue killings
Apr 28, 2023, 3:24 PM
(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Ongoing jury selection in the case of the 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue massacre is reviving the community’s memories of that traumatic day but also of the solidarity that followed, said the director of a program helping survivors and others affected by the deadliest antisemitic attack in U.S. history.
Maggie Feinstein, director of the 10.27 Healing Partnership, said the city “is reminded of what the intensity of this event was and also reminded of the intensity of healing together.”
Many people have been wearing blue ribbons — an emblem of solidarity with victims — or displaying them on the doors of their homes and businesses. “People are looking for some way to say, ‘I stand with you, I stand against hate,'” she said.
The first week of jury selection in the case drew to a close late Friday, with more days of questioning slated for next week.
Of 81 prospective jurors interviewed, 27 of them remained eligible by the end of the week to serve on the jury for the federal trial of Robert Bowers, according to the Tribune-Review. Bowers, 50, could face the death penalty.
U.S. District Judge Robert Colville, presiding over the case, has set a pattern of ruling the following business day on motions by opposing attorneys to remove candidates “for cause” from the juror pool if one or the other side deems them objectionable. Under that pattern, he could rule Monday on more challenges to Friday’s candidates.
Disqualifying factors could include having inflexible views on the death penalty. Still other candidates have been dismissed because serving on the lengthy trial would pose a hardship, such as in work or caregiving situations.
Plans are for 12 jurors and six alternates, but each side still has the right to up to 20 preemptory removals — without needing a reason. At a result, scores of potential jurors are being screened, many of them facing half an hour or more of questioning.
Bowers, of the Pittsburgh suburb of Baldwin, is charged with 63 counts in the killings of 11 worshippers on Oct. 27, 2018, at the Tree of Life synagogue building where three congregations had gathered — Dor Hadash, New Light and Tree of Life. The charges include 11 counts of obstruction of free exercise of religion resulting in death and 11 counts of hate crimes resulting in death.
Prosecutors say Bowers made antisemitic comments at the scene of the attacks and in earlier online forums.
Bowers’ attorneys already offered a guilty plea in return for a life sentence without parole, but prosecutors refused and are seeking the death penalty, a move most of the victims’ families support. Most of the juror questioning by Bowers’ attorneys has focused on jurors’ views on the death penalty.
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