Pittsburgh synagogue shooter’s lawyers blame prosecutors for pursuing death penalty

Case would be over if federal prosecutors had accepted his life-without-parole offer, Robert Bower’s attorneys say.

By Associated Press

Lawyers for the man accused of shooting to death 11 worshipers in a Pittsburgh synagogue last year said in a filing Tuesday that the case would be over if federal prosecutors had accepted his offer to plead guilty in return for life-without-parole.

Lawyers for Tree of Life shooting defendant Robert Bowers made the statement in a response to prosecutors’ proposal to start trial in mid-September 2020.

“Against the hazards of a September-October 2020 trial, the government invokes the rights of crimes victims to be free from unreasonable delay,” Bowers’ lawyers said.

“The court’s view of this invocation of rights should be informed by the fact that this case would already be over — and interests in a speedy resolution vindicated — had the government accepted the defendant’s offer to plead guilty as charged and be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of release.”

Bowers’ attorneys told a judge in May that he wanted to plead guilty in return for a life sentence.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Pittsburgh notified the court in August it is pursuing the death penalty against Bowers, 47, for what was the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history.

Police said Bowers expressed hatred of Jews during and after the October 2018 rampage.

A spokeswoman for the Pittsburgh federal prosecutors declined comment. Messages were left seeking comment from Bowers’ lawyers.

The Bowers team’s filing said trial in about a year would run into major Jewish holidays, as well as the home stretch of the presidential election.

The defense lawyers said they need time to prepare for trial, including questions about where it should be held.