A truck driver accused of killing 11 people and wounding seven during an attack last October on a Pittsburgh synagogue has pleaded not guilty.
Robert Bowers, 46, was in Federal Court on Monday and pleaded not guilty to a new indictment that added 19 counts to the 44 he already faces.
His lawyer, Judy Clarke, said the defence hopes the case can be resolved without going to trial. Clarke is a noted death penalty lawyer whose past clients have included one of the Boston Marathon bombers, a 9/11 conspirator and Unabomber Ted Kaczynski.
The new charges against Bowers include hate crime violations, obstructing religious belief and using a firearm during crimes of violence.
Authorities say Bowers raged against Jews during and after the attack at the Tree of Life synagogue.
Decision on death penalty under review
He pleaded not guilty in November to the 44 initial counts, including using a firearm to commit murder and obstruction of religious exercise resulting in death. On Jan. 29, a federal grand jury indicted Bowers on the 19 additional charges, including hate crime violations.
Among those killed were a 97-year-old woman, two brothers in their 50s and a married couple in their 80s. Two civilians and five police officers were wounded before the suspect was shot by police and surrendered.
Bowers has been in Butler County Prison, about 55 kilometres north of the shooting scene. If convicted of the most serious offences, he could be sentenced to life without parole.
A spokesperson for federal prosecutors in Pittsburgh said a decision about whether to pursue the death penalty against Bowers remains under review.
Donna Coufal, a member of the Dor Hadash congregation that occupies space at Tree of Life, said she attended Monday’s arraignment “to bear witness. It’s been a painful time, but we remain strong as a community.”