PITTSBURGH — Robert Bowers, who shot and killed 11 worshippers at a Pittsburgh synagogue, is eligible for the death penalty, the jury that convicted him has decided.
The decision comes after less than two hours of deliberation. The jury had to decide three things: is he 18 or older, did he have intent, and was there one or more aggravated factors?
“This was an act of antisemitism, not an issue of mental illness, this was hatred towards Jews, I want to thank the jury for all of their incredible work,” said Jeffrey Finkelstein who’s the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.
After two weeks of testimony diving into the depths of Bowers’ mental history, the defense tried to prove to the jury that Bowers suffered from schizophrenia and epilepsy, therefore he couldn’t be held to a sentence of death.
The prosecution said their medical experts found no proof of either illness and the jury sided with them in this stage after less than two hours of deliberations.
It leaves the survivors and victims’ families looking toward the future.
“I just ran into a few of them here on the street after they were leaving the courthouse and I got a sense they are, not happy and elated, those are the wrong words, but they are eager to share their feelings in this next phase,” Finkelstein said.
Those family members will have the opportunity to speak for the first time to this jury about their loss and grief.
“They are not to testify about what punishment Mr. Bowers should receive, so their testimony will be limited,” said Robin Maher, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center Director.
Maher told Channel 11 it’s likely we will see some repeat witnesses on the defense side as they dive deeper into Bower’s mental health and potential illnesses.
“I think the defense has previewed a little bit of what they are going to tell the jury in the penalty phase. Certainly, there will be much more about his mental health because that is the critical question here. Whether he is among the most culpable of defendants for whom the death penalty is reserved,” Maher said.
The opening statements for the sentencing and final phase of the trial will begin on Monday morning. The judge anticipates another two to three weeks before the jury makes its final decision.
If you or someone you know is experiencing mental health effects from the trial, go to 1027healingpartnership.org to find help resources. As always, call 911 to report threats.
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