Court waits to set trial date in Pittsburgh synagogue attack
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Court waits to set trial date in Pittsburgh synagogue attack

Judge says she first wants to resolve defense’s pretrial motions challenging death penalty sought by prosecutors

A young boy looks at the fenced off entrance to the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 27, 2019, the first anniversary of the shooting at the synagogue, that killed 11 worshipers. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
A young boy looks at the fenced off entrance to the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 27, 2019, the first anniversary of the shooting at the synagogue, that killed 11 worshipers. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A judge in Pittsburgh has said she is not ready to set a trial date for the man charged with killing 11 people inside a synagogue last year.

US District Judge Donetta Ambrose on Thursday said she wouldn’t schedule Robert Bowers’ trial until pretrial motions over the death penalty and other issues were resolved.

The judge gave defense lawyers until mid-December to file motions challenging the constitutionality of the death penalty sought by prosecutors.

Federal prosecutors had asked for a fall 2020 trial to spare survivors and the families of those killed long delays.

But the defense is concerned the date would overlap with the Jewish holidays or a divisive presidential election.

The October 27, 2018, shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue is considered the deadliest attack on Jews in US history.

The first anniversary of the attack was marked around the world this week with community service projects, music and an online remembrance.

Driver’s License photo of Pittsburgh synagogue massacre suspect Robert Bowers. (Pennsylvania DOT)

The shooting on October 27, 2018, killed 11 worshipers and wounded seven at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood, where a steady stream of people stopped to pay respects on Sunday. Lining the fence outside the closed Tree of Life building were 11 flowerpots, each one bearing the name of one of those killed. People also piled bouquets and crocheted hearts at the site and hung signs on the fence saying the city was “stronger than hate” and calling diversity its strength.

The synagogue’s three congregations now worship at two nearby synagogues. Last week, Tree of Life leaders unveiled their vision for the damaged building: a rebuilt space for places of worship; memorial, education and social events; and classrooms and exhibitions.

Authorities charged Bowers, 47, a truck driver from Baldwin, Pennsylvania, in the massacre. Investigators say he used an AR-15 rifle and other weapons, and posted criticism of an immigrant aid society on social media before the attack, claiming the Jewish charity “likes to bring invaders that kill our people.”

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