Bowers’s aunt, uncle testify, psychiatrist emphasizes delusional thinking led to violence

PITTSBURGH — The defense continues to present witnesses in the final phase of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting trial.

The jury has decided that Robert Bowers, who killed 11 worshippers in a Squirrel Hill synagogue in 2018, is eligible for the death penalty.

On Thursday, Dr. George Corvin, a psychiatrist who examined Bowers on multiple occasions and diagnosed him with schizophrenia, took the stand.

Corvin said Bowers’s family tree showed a significant history of mental illness, but he says Bowers won’t admit that he has issues.

In addition, two retired federal prison managers, who now both work as consultants, testified that if sentenced to life in prison, Bowers would likely be sent to the super maximum-security facility outside Denver, Colorado, for safety reasons.

Corvin testified again on Friday and said Robert Bowers targeted the Tree of Life because he considered it the State of Liberty for Jewish people. He said that Bowers’ delusional thinking made him believe that Jews were possessed by Satan, which led to the shooting. He said Bowers believed he was doing God’s work.

“He continues to believe firmly that he is saving lives, that he’s living the life of a Saint, a martyr and in essence what he did wasn’t wrong,“ Corvin said.

Corvin said a history of mental illness, specifically schizophrenia, led to this distorted thinking.

“The acts of violence were not the result of extremist, hateful ideologies, but brought about by strongly held delusional beliefs,” Corvin said. “If he realized that he murdered 11 people for no real reason, he would feel remorse then and he might end his life.”

Under cross-examination, prosecutor Eric Olshan questioned how Corvin reached his conclusions and referred to neurological tests suggesting Bowers does not have a mental illness. This led to an intense exchange.

“It doesn’t matter what I think at the end of the day, it matters what they (the jury) think. You don’t want his brain. I sure don’t,” said Corvin.

Clyde Munger testified later in the afternoon. Munger met Bowers when he was in his 20s. He’s Bowers’ uncle and described him as quiet, a loner. He said he visited him in jail and prays for him often.

“I held his hand and told him I loved him and I’m still praying for him. He’s my nephew and I love him. I wanted to see him,” said Munger.

Bowers’ aunt, Patricia Fine, also testified. She said as a child, Bowers was withdrawn and sad.

“He never wanted to be or would put himself in the spotlight. He had an odd habit. He sat under chairs, not on them,” she said.

Fine also told jurors Bowers had a bad home life and said he did not have many friends. She knew something was not quite right with him and thought he would kill himself one day.

Download the FREE WPXI News app for breaking news alerts.

Follow Channel 11 News on Facebook and Twitter. | Watch WPXI NOW