Pittsburgh synagogue massacre shooter wants plea deal to avoid death penalty
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Pittsburgh synagogue massacre shooter wants plea deal to avoid death penalty

High-profile lawyer for Robert Bowers, accused of killing 11 and facing 63-count indictment, says gunman is open to agreement in exchange for life sentence

File: A menorah and flowers are seen outside the Tree of Life Synagogue in preparation for a celebration service on the first night of Hanukkah, in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, December 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
File: A menorah and flowers are seen outside the Tree of Life Synagogue in preparation for a celebration service on the first night of Hanukkah, in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, December 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

PITTSBURGH — The man charged in the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre still wants to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence, his lawyer said Thursday.

Judy Clarke told a judge she hopes the case against Robert Bowers can be resolved without a trial. The 46-year-old truck driver wasn’t in court.

Authorities say Bowers killed 11 people and wounded seven at Tree of Life synagogue last October. It was the deadliest attack on Jews in US history. He has previously pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors in Pittsburgh have previously indicated their intent to seek the death penalty against Bowers, but a final decision rests with the US attorney general.

Assistant US Attorney Troy Rivetti said Thursday the death penalty review process is ongoing. He said the government won’t discuss plea negotiations in open court. Both sides met on May 9.

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

Clarke, who is known for negotiating plea deals that helped some of the nation’s most infamous killers avoid death row, had said at Bowers’ February arraignment that he was open to such a deal, telling a judge the defense wanted to avoid a trial.

Bowers opened fire with an AR-15 rifle and other weapons during worship services inside Tree of Life, killing eight men and three women before a tactical police team tracked him down and shot him, according to state and federal affidavits. He expressed hatred of Jews during the rampage and later told police that “all these Jews need to die,” authorities said.

Bowers faces a 63-count indictment that charges him with hate crimes, obstructing religious belief and using a firearm during crimes of violence.

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