- by cnn
- 01 Oct 2023
Three Saturdays each month, Pittsburgh's Tree of Life synagogue hosted a service specifically for children known as the junior congregation.
On those days, a group of kids would first gather in the lobby, and Stephen Weiss, a public school teacher and a synagogue youth leader, would then lead them in services, he said.
October 27, 2018, was not one of those Saturdays.
That miraculous coincidence was revealed in court Thursday at the federal hate crimes trial of the man accused of storming into the synagogue that day and fatally shooting 11 people and wounding several more.
Robert Bowers, 50, has pleaded not guilty to 63 charges, including obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death and hate crimes resulting in death.
Prosecutors say he carried out the attack because of his hatred for Jewish people and their perceived support of a non-profit that supports refugees. His defense has stated he was responsible for the shooting but in opening statements sought to raise questions about his motive and intent in the attack.
If Bowers is convicted, the trial will move to the punishment phase, during which the jury will have to decide whether to sentence him to death.
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