Top Stories

Prosecutors will seek death penalty for Tree of Life shooting

PITTSBURGH — Prosecutors will seek the death penalty against the man accused of killing 11 people inside the Tree of Life synagogue last fall.

Robert Bowers allegedly went into the Squirrel Hill house of worship and opened fire on Saturday, Oct. 27.

Reading this in the WPXI News App? Tap + above the headline to subscribe to alerts for the very latest updates on this ongoing court case.

Monday, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it will seek the death penalty against Bowers.

Just last week, members of one of the Jewish congregations that used Tree of Life asked prosecutors to reject the death penalty and seek a plea deal.

"I am terribly disappointed in his decision. I think it is a political decision and it does not necessarily serve the interest of justice for the families of the deceased or the survivors or our congregants," Stephen Cohen, co-president of the New Light Congregation, said.

In a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr, the congregation said:

"Congregation Dor Hadash and its members suffered grievous and profound losses  on October 27, 2018.   In consideration of the significant injury to our congregation, Congregation Dor Hadash requests that the parties agree to a plea deal in which the perpetrator would accept a sentence of life imprisonment with no possibility of parole in exchange for the prosecution's agreement not to seek the death penalty.   We believe that the elimination of a trial and publicity for the shooter serves the interest of our congregation, as well as the general public.   A plea bargain for life without parole will prevent this individual getting the attention and publicity that would inevitably come with a trial.

Such a plea would honor the memory of Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, who was firmly and unequivocally opposed to the death penalty.  It also would eliminate any possibility of further trauma that could result from a trial and protracted appeals, thereby serving the interests of justice."