On Friday, the man responsible for the deadliest antisemitic attack in U.S. history was found guilty on all 63 federal counts against him, including several that carry the death penalty. He opened fire on a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018, killing 11.
The jury in Robert Bowers’ trial deliberated for five hours over two days before reaching a judgment.
Bowers didn’t appear nervous during the verdict reading, and the courtroom was silent as a tomb. When the task was through, sniffles were coming from the gallery. Bowers was charged with 63 federal crimes, some hate crimes, and he pled not guilty.
He was found guilty on eleven counts of murder in the name of religion, all carrying the death penalty. He was also found guilty on 11 charges of employing a firearm in the commission of a violent felony and on 11 counts of deliberately causing bodily damage because of actual or imagined religion ending in death.
#BREAKING NEWS: Guilty on all 63 counts. The jury has returned their verdict in the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting trial. It was the deadliest attack on Jewish people in U.S. history. https://t.co/iUfnoTELIN
— KDKA (@KDKA) June 16, 2023
The trial will now enter its sentencing phase, during which the jury will decide whether he should be executed or given a life sentence. Bowers’ legal team has until Sunday at 5 p.m. to submit any reports on a possible mental health defence.
The trial will continue on June 26 when the court next meets. On October 27, 2018, Bowers attacked the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill area with an assault rifle and three handguns, killing 11 people and wounding seven more.
Although federal prosecutors sought the death penalty, Bowers’ attorneys admitted their client was guilty. Bowers’s offer to plead guilty in exchange for the death penalty being dropped was denied by prosecutors.
On Wednesday, the prosecution presented its final evidence, and Bowers’ attorneys did not give a defence. Witnesses at the three-week trial included those who had survived the ordeal and the families and police officers of those who had lost loved ones.
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Prosecutors presented evidence at trial that Bowers had expressed anti-Semitic sentiments online. His bio on the far-right social media site Gab read, “Jews are the children of Satan.” He also praised Hitler and the Holocaust against the Jews and shared other hateful material.
The massacre claimed the lives of 15 people, ranging in age from 75 to 97: Joyce Fienberg, Richard Gottfried, Rose Mallinger, Jerry Rabinowitz, Cecil Rosenthal, David Rosenthal, Bernice Simon, Sylvan Simon, Daniel Stein, Irving Younger, Melvin Wax.
The CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt, lauded the judgment, saying, “We welcome the jury’s verdict today and believe that justice has been served.”