Court hears debate over accused synagogue shooter’s words

Dec 2, 2021, 1:32 PM | Updated: 2:31 pm

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — The Pittsburgh synagogue massacre defendant’s statements at the scene and at a hospital should be allowed at trial, prosecutors told a federal judge in a new filing, in part because concerns about public safety were a valid reason to keep questioning him even after he’d asked for an attorney.

The U.S. attorney’s office and the legal defense team for Robert Bowers both made extensive arguments in recent days as U.S. District Judge Donetta Ambrose considers whether to grant his request to suppress statements made after he had been shot and was being treated for gunshot wounds to the leg and shoulder.

His lawyers, who also filed a brief this week, said Bowers’ assertion of his rights to remain silent and to confer with a lawyer should mean communications initiated by officers or what they overheard while he was being treated should not be used against him.

Officers may have had the authority to remain by Bowers as he was treated at a hospital for three gunshot wounds, but they should not have been allowed to listen in and record those conversations with medical providers or be permitted to use them at trial, they told Ambrose.

“Mr. Bowers had a reasonable expectation of privacy in those communications, and officers violated his Fourth Amendment rights when they purposely listened in on those communications, recorded them in writing, and now attempt to use those communications to secure a death sentence,” his lawyers wrote.

Bowers, 49, of Baldwin, Pennsylvania, faces more than 60 federal charges for the Oct. 27, 2018, shooting rampage at the Tree of Life synagogue building that left 11 people dead. He is accused of the deadliest attack on Jewish people in U.S. history.

His lawyers have sought a deal for him to plead guilty and get a life sentence if the government will take the death penalty off the table. That has not occurred, although in July, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced a moratorium on federal executions while his agency reviews policies and procedures.

Prosecutors, in a filing Tuesday, said much of the evidentiary dispute concerns questions to Bowers “of ‘why he did this’ and ‘why he gave up,'” saying his answers are admissible in court “because they were made in response to questions reasonably prompted by a concern for officer and public safety.”

Bowers’ lawyers did not reply to a message seeking comment Thursday, and a spokesperson for federal prosecutors in Pittsburgh declined to comment on the court filings.

Bowers’ filing says that at 11:03 a.m. he yelled he was hurt and wanted to give up. An officer told him, “crawl out or you will die,” and he complied, subsequently telling them his name and that he had left a rifle and handgun in the room but still had two handguns, on his waist and ankle. In response to an officer’s question, he said he did not have a bomb.

Officer Clint Thimons then asked Bowers why he did it, which he testified was prompted by his own curiosity and human nature. Bowers responded that he hated Jews, accused them of bringing immigrants into the country and “killing our people,” his lawyers wrote. Asked why he gave up, he told them “he had run out of ammunition,” his lawyers recounted.

Four medics who began treating him with tourniquets to his leg and arm wanted to move his handcuffs from his back to his front. His lawyers wrote that an officer held the muzzle of a gun to Bowers’ head and told him that if he so much as “breathed on the medics” the officer would “shoot his brains out.”

His lawyers argue Bowers was in police custody from the moment he began crawling out of a room and toward officers to surrender.

“Because his movement was effectively restrained to the degree associated with a formal arrest, he was ‘in custody’ for purposes of Miranda,” they wrote, referring to warnings customarily given to suspects by police about their rights, including the right to remain silent.

An hour after invoking his Miranda rights, they wrote, Bowers was asked by a detective if there was anything they should be concerned about at the synagogue. Bowers responded by itemizing the weapons he had.

He invoked his right to remain silent and to consult with a lawyer for a second time at 1:03 p.m., after which he responded to investigators’ biographical questions. About 10 minutes after undergoing surgery under general anesthesia for about an hour and a half, investigators again asked to speak with him, his lawyers wrote. He again invoked his Miranda rights.

“They repeatedly asked Mr. Bowers if he wanted to make a statement, even though Mr. Bowers continually asserted his right to silence and his right to an attorney,” they wrote, arguing that was grounds to keep all of his statements out of any trial.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - Elvira, a bracco Italiano, competes in the 24 inch class at the Masters Agility Competition ...
Associated Press

Ciao! American Kennel Club adds a breed, the bracco Italiano

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. dog lovers, say “benvenuto” to the bracco Italiano. The ancient Italian bird-hunting dog is the 200th member of the American Kennel Club’s roster of recognized breeds, the organization announced Wednesday. That means the handsome, powerful but amiable pointers can now go for best in show at many U.S. dog shows, […]
6 hours ago
German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser addresses the media during a press conference in Berlin, Germ...
Associated Press

Germany eases path to permanent residency for migrants

BERLIN (AP) — Tens of thousands of migrants, who have been living in Germany for years without long-lasting permission to remain in the country, will be eligible for permanent residency after the government approved a new migration bill Wednesday. The new regulation, endorsed by the Cabinet, applies to about 136,000 people who have lived in […]
6 hours ago
FILE - The Activision Blizzard Booth is shown on June 13, 2013, during the Electronic Entertainment...
Associated Press

Microsoft’s Activision Blizzard bid faces UK antitrust probe

LONDON (AP) — Microsoft’s acquisition of game publisher Activision Blizzard faces antitrust scrutiny in the U.K., where competition regulators said Wednesday they’ve opened an initial inquiry into the $69 billion deal. The Competition and Markets Authority said it has started looking into whether the tie-up would result “in a substantial lessening of competition” in the […]
6 hours ago
FILE - Carlos Santana performs at the BottleRock Napa Valley Music Festival in Napa, Calif., on May...
Associated Press

Rocker Carlos Santana ‘doing well’ after collapsing onstage

DETROIT (AP) — Guitar icon Carlos Santana collapsed on stage during a show in Michigan and was rushed to a hospital, later blaming the episode on forgetting to eat or drink water. Santana, 74, was “doing well” Wednesday after being taken from his show at Pine Knob Music Theatre in Clarkston, some 40 miles northwest […]
6 hours ago
FILE - People thought to be migrants who undertook the crossing from France in small boats and were...
Associated Press

39 suspects arrested over migrant smuggling on boats to UK

PARIS (AP) — The suspected ringleader of a network that smuggled as many as 10,000 people on small boats across the English Channel to Britain has been arrested along with 38 others in a vast police operation across Europe. In addition to the arrests, authorities said Wednesday that police found 135 boats in places including […]
6 hours ago
Vice president Kamala Harris speaks to those gathered near the site of Monday's mass shooting durin...
Associated Press

July 4 shooting suspect bought guns legally despite threats

HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. (AP) — The man charged with killing seven people when he unleashed a hail of bullets on an Independence Day parade from a rooftop in suburban Chicago legally bought the high-powered rifle used in the shooting and four other weapons, despite threatening violence, police said. Robert E. Crimo III was charged with […]
6 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Update your child’s vaccines before kindergarten

So, your little one starts kindergarten soon. How exciting! You still have a few months before the school year starts, so now’s the time to make sure students-to-be have the vaccines needed to stay safe as they head into a new chapter of life.
Day & Night Air

Tips to lower your energy bill in the Arizona heat

Does your summer electric bill make you groan? Are you looking for effective ways to reduce your bill?
Court hears debate over accused synagogue shooter’s words