PITTSBURGH — Beginning Monday morning, the federal courthouse on Grant Street in Downtown Pittsburgh will be the site of the trial for Robert Bowers.
On the 8th floor of the courthouse, in Judge Robert Colville’s courtroom, jury selection will get underway at 8:30 a.m. Bowers is accused in the racially-motivated attack on the Synagogue in Squirrel Hill in October of 2018.
Eleven worshippers were killed in the deadliest attack against Jewish people on American soil.
Attorneys for both the defense and the prosecution will begin selecting a jury.
Channel 11 Chief Investigative reporter Rick Earle spoke with WPXI Legal Analyst Phil DiLucente about the trial and what to expect.
“It’s going to be a long arduous process, but I think both sides have geared up for that,” said DiLucente.
DiLucente told Earle that he expects it will take longer than a week to pick a jury. And he anticipates more questions specifically about the sentencing phase for potential jurors.
Earle: Will there be questions about the death penalty?
DiLucente: Absolutely. And the jury questionnaires which have previously gone out had limited it.
Once 12 jurors and six alternates are selected, they will begin hearing testimony and evidence.
The defense has said Bowers suffers from schizophrenia and epilepsy.
And DiLucente expects that to be a likely defense tactic.
“The defense will likely put on not only their own experts but anyone who treated him throughout his disability of schizophrenia, so that the jury understands that he may not have understood or appreciated his actions at that time,” said DiLucente.
If Bowers is found guilty, the same jury will then decide whether he should spend the rest of his life in prison or be put to death.
Bowers high profile defense team led by Judy Clarke, who represented the Unabomber and the Boston Marathon bomber, has unsuccessfully so far attempted to orchestrate a plea of life in prison.
Earle: Could you foresee a plea bargain in this case or is that totally off the table?
DiLucente: I don’t think anything is off the table. Plea bargains can come before, which I’m sure have attempted to be negotiated, during, or even up until the verdict. It’s always the prosecution; they have the power on whether they want to extend after their case in chief is presented to this jury,” said DiLucente.
Just last week, two sisters who lost loved ones in the attack, released a letter they sent to the United States Attorney General and signed by seven of the nine families who lost relatives, in support of the death penalty.
But not everyone who lost loved ones agrees with that.
Some other family members of the victims have said they oppose the death penalty and they sent a letter to the United States Attorney General calling for a plea bargain with life in prison.
Prosecutors have said they plan to pursue the death penalty.
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