By John P. Wise/KDKA-TV
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Robert Bowers, accused of killing 11 Jewish congregants as they prayed at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood, is now seeking a change of venue for his trial.
Citing pre-trial publicity, Bowers' attorneys filed the motion in federal court Monday, more than three years after the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in American history.
In their motion, attorneys noted they had researched newspaper articles on the shooting, finding more than 1,200 of them from Oct. 27, 2018, the day of the shooting, through Oct. 23, 2021.
"There were more than 670 mentions of 'anti-Semitism' and 229 references to the shooting as a 'hate crime,'" the lawyers wrote. "The media coverage has also shifted the burden of proof to the defendant on both questions of guilt and sentence."
The lawyers pointed out that in a community attitude survey, 89 percent of the jury pool was familiar with the case, and 92 percent of Pittsburgh-area potential jurors familiar with the case believe Bowers is guilty of murder. Another 82 percent "indicated that he would have a difficult time convincing them that he is not guilty," and nearly half of respondents believe he should be sentenced to death.
Seeking the death penalty, federal prosecutors last year presented a judge a timeline they want for a trial, aiming to start in July of this year. A trial date has not yet been set.
Bowers' defense attorneys are trying to keep jurors from hearing some anti-Semitic statements Bowers allegedly made that day.
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