Synagogue shooting suspect's waives status conference, federal prosecutor assigned

PITTSBURGH — The defense team for Tree of Life Synagogue shooting suspect Robert Bowers appeared in federal court for a status conference Tuesday.

Bowers waived his right to appear at Tuesday's status conference.

His attorneys told the judge they had received two packets of evidence for the government. They also asked the judge for more time to file pretrial motions.

Judge Donetta Ambrose agreed to extend the deadline to April 18.

"I just want all of you to let me know as soon as any issues arise. I know this is a serious matter. I'm here to resolve any matter that come up," Ambrose said.

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The government also introduced a third attorney from the Department of Justice in Washington D.C. who will be joining the prosecution.

WPXI legal analyst Phil DiLucente said he's not surprised the DOJ is now involved.

"Particularly with the Bowers case, you have such an extreme interest of justice nationwide since it was a racially motivated crime. A horrendous crime," DiLucente said.

On Oct. 27, Robert Bowers allegedly opened fire inside the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood, killing 11 people.

Bowers is charged in a 44-count indictment, with 32 of those counts carrying a maximum penalty of death.

That recommendation will then be submitted to the Capital Review Committee at the U.S. Department of Justice.

The committee will review the information provided by the U.S. attorney and by defense counsel and may schedule a conference with both parties.

According to the notice:

"the Capital Case Review process is to assure that the decision whether or not to seek the death penalty is based upon the facts and law applicable to each individual case."

The Capital Review Committee will then make a recommendation to the deputy attorney general, who will make a recommendation to the attorney general.

Ultimately, the attorney general will decide whether to issue a notice of intent to seek the death penalty against Bowers.

Status conferences are typically held in the judge's chambers, but because this is such a high-profile case, the judge is holding it in the courtroom and it's open to the public.