For the first time in more than four years, the man accused of killing 11 Jews in the Tree of Life building appeared in federal court on Monday, the Tribune-Review reported.
He was present for the first session of the first phase of jury selection, in which potential jurors are filling out questionnaires that will determine if they can serve on the jury. The procedure will continue for two weeks. Prospective jurors were selected from a 24-county area in western Pennsylvania.
Jury selection, which begins on April 24 with in-person questioning, is expected to last several weeks.
In U.S. District Judge Robert J. Colville’s courtroom on Monday, the accused shooter was dressed in a dark sweater and white dress shirt, according to the Tribune-Review. He stood to face the prospective jurors when asked.
Colville instructed the prospective jurors on the importance of jury selection and described the charges against the defendant. He faces dozens of counts, including the commission of hate crimes resulting in death and the obstruction of religion. Colville further explained that the government is seeking the death penalty if the defendant is convicted, according to the Tribune-Review, and that another potential sentence was life in prison.
“Each juror must ultimately make an individual judgment,” Colville said, the Tribune-Review reported.
The prospective jurors then moved to another room to complete the questionnaire. Colville instructed the prospective jurors “to not read or watch any news coverage of the case or do any independent research. They may not discuss the case with their family or friends,” according to the Tribune-Review.
In other pre-trial news, on Feb. 23, defense attorneys filed a notice of their intention to “introduce expert evidence relating to a mental disease or defect or any other mental condition of the defendant bearing on the issue of punishment.” The notice did not indicate what mental health conditions the defense will seek to prove during the penalty phase if the defendant is convicted.
In a motion filed last week, the prosecution asked that its experts be allowed to rebut or confirm the defense’s mental health claims. Specifically, it asked that a psychiatrist conduct interviews of the defendant to complete a forensic psychiatric evaluation; a neuropsychologist observe the psychiatric interviews, conduct additional interviewing and administer psychological and neuropsychological tests; and a neurologist interview and conduct a neurological examination of the defendant. The prosecution further requested that its experts “may question the defendant about the charged crimes and his conduct before and after committing the crimes, and any other matter as is necessary and probative to rebut or confirm the anticipated defense expert mental health testimony.” PJC