In an unanimous decision, a jury in Pittsburgh has recommended a death sentence for the gunman who killed 11 people and injured seven more in a mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018. The jury, who were on their second day of deliberations after almost 10 total hours deliberating, were weighing either a death sentence or life in prison for the gunman, Robert Bowers. Bowers was found guilty in June of all 63 federal charges brought against him in connection with the massacre, including criminal counts for hate crimes resulting in death.
Judge Robert Colville, who presided over the case, denied a motion from the defense for a mistrial prior to the sentencing hearing on Tuesday morning. Judge Colville said “the task before the jury was an enormous task and they seem to have embraced it with an earnestness and seriousness.” The 12-member jury had to reach a decision in the penalty phase on whether what are known as aggravating factors outweighed 115 mitigating factors. The decisions on each of those factors on the 25-page verdict form were read before the jury announced its final decision. The jury found Bowers eligible to face the death penalty in July.
Bowers opened fire inside of Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018, during Shabbat morning services, in the deadliest antisemitic attack in the country’s history. Police said the gunman was armed with an AR-15 rifle and three handguns, shouting “All Jews must die!” during the shooting The gunman was shot multiple times by responding officers and taken into custody. Bowers had a documented history of antisemitic and violent extremist views that he posted about online, and his attorneys admitted during the criminal trial that he was responsible for the massacre; however, the defense focused on his mental state, raising questions as to whether Bowers was driven by hate or schizophrenia when he carried out the attack. Prosecutors rejected the defense’s claims related to mental illness, arguing that the gunman methodically planned the shooting.
Formal sentencing for Bowers will be Thursday, and victims will also have the chance to share statements before the judge officially imposes the final sentence.
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