PITTSBURGH — The trial for Robert Bowers will get underway Tuesday morning with opening statements at the federal courthouse in Downtown Pittsburgh.
It’s been more than four years since Bowers was accused of opening fire inside a Squirrel Hill synagogue, killing 11 worshippers and wounding others.
The prosecution and defense will begin the trial with opening statements as 12 jurors must first decide whether Robert Bowers is guilty of the killings.
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“It’s not a who-done-it type of case. There’s no argument that Mr. Bowers killed these people,” said WPXI-TV legal analyst Phil DiLucente, who will be providing perspective during the entire trial.
Still, DiLucente said the prosecution will lay out the entire case from beginning to end, likely calling witnesses who were in the synagogue at the time of the shooting and police officers who responded and ultimately took Bowers into custody after an intense gun battle. Several officers and the suspect were wounded in the exchange of gunfire.
“There is nothing more powerful than a fact firsthand knowledge witness that can testify for each and everything they heard, had seen, they felt,” said DiLucente.
It’s unclear if the defense will call any witnesses in this phase of the trial.
“It does tell the juror right off the bat, what are we here for now? And so one would think that there may be a defense with not putting on a defense,” said DiLucente.
If Bowers is found guilty, the trial will proceed to the sentencing phase where jurors will have to decide between life in prison or the death penalty.
The defense will argue through evidence and testimony that Bowers suffers from epilepsy and is schizophrenic, all mitigating factors, they contend support life in prison.
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But the prosecution will say that he killed 11 people in a house of worship with no remorse and that those aggravating factors outweigh the mitigating factors, and he should face the death penalty.
Their argument will be bolstered by emotional testimony from victims’ family members.
But DiLucente said the most critical phase of the trial ended Thursday afternoon when both sides agreed on the 12 jurors and six alternates who will hear the case.
“The defense wants jurors that are very emotional. They’ll pull at the heartstrings and say look he has issues we do not want to have him put to death. The prosecution wants to say not only does he not have an infirmity, he did this. It was pre-planned. We can prove that it was pre-planned. He did it methodically, didn’t miss a beat, never renounced himself, and continued to fire as people were dying,” said DiLucente.
The trial is expected to last through the end of July.
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