Explainer: How will the death penalty appeal process work in Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting case?

PITTSBURGH — On Wednesday, a jury decided that Robert Bowers, the man who killed 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue in 2018, should be sentenced to death.

The verdict closes just one chapter of the case.

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It will likely be years before there’s any chance of Bowers being put to death.

Channel 11 News Anchor David Johnson took a look at the long legal battle ahead.

Executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, Robin Maher, says Bowers will first have an automatic appeal.

“He’ll have an automatic appeal, it’s called a direct appeal and that would go to the Court of Appeals,” Maher explained. “When the Supreme Court authorized the return of the death penalty, this was one of the safeguards they put in place.”

But Maher says this part of the process is basically a review of the trial transcript and if nothing is found wrong, he can then go back to federal and district court and appeal.

“The second appeal can include any issues that didn’t occur at trial, such as evidence that was not permitted to be introduced,” Maher explained.

It is in this setting, Maher says, that Bowers will be able to challenge his conviction and sentence.

“He has just one meaningful opportunity to challenge his conviction and death sentence before the end of his appeals,” Maher said.

If that fails, then he’ll be transferred to federal death row in Terre Haute, Indiana, where the federal death chamber waits and the years creep by.

“Most of the men/have been there from several years, up to several decades,” Maher said.

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