Pittsburgh synagogue mass shooter will be sentenced to death, jury decides

The man who gunned down 11 worshippers at the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue in 2018, the deadliest antisemitic attack in U.S. history, will be sentenced to death.

Robert Bowers, 50, was found guilty on 63 criminal counts in June, including 11 counts each of obstruction of free exercise of religion resulting in death and hate crimes resulting in death. A judge will formally impose the sentence later after a federal jury made the death sentence recommendation Wednesday.

Bowers was found eligible for the death penalty July 13, when jurors decided that he intended to kill, substantial planning went into the attack, and he targeted the vulnerable.

It is the first federal death sentence to be imposed during President Joe Biden’s administration.

Prosecutors painted a picture of a man driven by his hatred of Jewish people, with an intent to kill. Bowers’ defense attorneys argued he had a serious combination of mental illnesses and was unable to form the level of intent required to make him eligible for the death penalty. Bowers, a truck driver from the Pittsburgh suburb of Baldwin, opened fire on the members of three congregations who had gathered on Oct. 27, 2018. He fired more than 100 rounds, turning the place of worship into a “hunting ground,” prosecutors said during the first phase of his trial.

Gunman carried out deadliest antisemitic attack in US history in Pittsburgh synagogue

Bowers was found guilty in June of the attack that began when he drove to the Tree of Life Synagogue that October morning in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood with multiple firearms. Prosecutors said he burst into the building and shouted “All Jews must die” as he fired.

Bowers killed 11 people and injured seven, many of whom were elderly, prosecutors said. Some of the injured were police officers who exchanged gunfire with him. Prosecutors said he was driven by long-held antisemitism and hatred of immigrants.

Since the shooting, Bowers has bragged about what he did and told psychologists that he wished he had killed more people, Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicole Vasquez Schmitt told jurors in an opening statement. Buy Weed Online, Buy Marijuana Online, Buy Cannabis Online.

Survivors of the Pittsburgh synagogue read victim impact statements during the sentencing phase of the trial, which began in July.

Carol Black, a survivor who had testified earlier in the trial, told jurors about her brother, 65-year-old Richard Gottfried, a dentist who was killed in the shooting. She said that he was “warm and loving” and that the two were close. Gottfried was active at the synagogue, she said.

“It’s just such a huge void in our family, for him not to be here,” Black said.

Gottfried’s wife, Margaret Durachko, testified that the couple should have had 30 more years together.

“He was my whole family because we never had children,” Durachko said. “It was wiped out in a second.”

Andrea Wedner, who was shot in the attack that killed her mother, 97-year-old Rose Mallinger, said she still carries shrapnel in her arm. She had to retire as a dental hygienist because she has regained only partial use of her hand.

Jeffrey Finkelstein, president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, said his organization doesn’t have a position on the death penalty but said survivors and victims’ relatives disagree about whether it should be applied. 

“This was an act of antisemitism, not an issue of mental illness,” Finkelstein told The Associated Press earlier in the trial.

Defense attorneys tried to avoid death penalty

Bowers’ defense team argued life in prison was sufficient punishment for a man who fell under the influence of extremists because of mental illnesses and brain abnormalities. His lawyers said during opening statements in the penalty phase of the trial that he had a difficult childhood.

Public defender Elisa Long said his parents had divorced when he was a baby, his father died by suicide after being charged with rape, and his mother told him she wished he hadn’t been born. He was “hungry and cold” during his childhood, Long said. At one point in the penalty phase, the defense team requested Bowers’ father’s body be exhumed and DNA tested to clear up questions about paternity and establish a link to schizophrenia, which his father had. That was rejected by U.S. District Judge Robert Colville. Mental health experts also testified they diagnosed Bowers with schizophrenia, which was disputed by a neurologist who testified for the prosecution. Buy Marijuana Online, Buy Weed Online USA, Cannabis Online Dispensary, Medical Marijuana, Cannabis Edibles, Cannabis Oil for sale, Delivery all over the USA,

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