Robert Bowers, accused of killing 11 people at Tree of Life synagogue on Saturday, was arraigned briefly in federal court this morning and informed that he faces a possible death sentence.

Mr. Bowers, 46, walked into court in handcuffs, escorted by federal marshals. At an earlier appearance on Monday, he appeared in a wheelchair. He'd been shot multiple times in a gunfight with Pittsburgh police.

He said nothing in court today except to say he understood the charges against him as read by Assistant U.S. Attorney Soo Song.

His public defender, Michael Novara, entered a standard not guilty plea on his behalf and requested a jury trial.

Allegheny General Hospital President Jeffrey Cohen, a member of the Tree of Life synagogue, at the North Side hospital.
Kris B. Mamula

Assistant U.S. Attorney Troy Rivetti indicated that if convicted Mr. Bowers faces a possible sentence of death or life in prison.

The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Donetta Ambrose but no trial date has been set. The government estimated the trial will take three to four weeks, longer if it becomes a capital case.

Mr. Bowers faces 11 counts of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death and 11 counts of discharging a gun to commit murder during a crime of violence.

He is also charged with numerous other crimes in relation to the rampage.

The U.S. attorney's office said that in addition to the 11 people killed, the victims included two synagogue members who were injured by Mr. Bowers, nine others who escaped unharmed and four wounded police officers.

Torsten Ove: tove@post-gazette.com