Earnest, 19, is charged with bursting into the Chabad of Poway synagogue on April 27 and opening fire with an assault rifle, killing one and injuring three.
Peter Ko, an assistant U.S. attorney, told the judge that the government had not decided whether to seek the death penalty. He reaffirmed plans to try Earnest separately and simultaneously with a state charge of murder that is classified as a hate crime, which also exposes Earnest to a potential death sentence.
Earnest had a buzz haircut and didn't wear glasses, unlike his first appearance in state court two weeks ago, when he had a full head of hair. He looked blankly at Magistrate Judge Michael Berg as the judge explained the proceedings and followed along with his attorney, Kathryn Nester, as she flipped pages of the charging document that the judge read aloud. Earnest's wrists and ankles were shackled.
A federal affidavit detailing the hate crime charges that was filed last week describes a deeply disturbed man filled with hatred toward Jews and Muslims, which are detailed in a manifesto he allegedly published online.