Pittsburgh synagogue shooter to be sentenced to death

Mass shooting was deadliest anti-Semitic attack in US history

The Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. AP
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The gunman who killed 11 worshippers at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, will be sentenced to death, roughly four and a half years after carrying out the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in US history.

A Pittsburgh jury reached a verdict at 11.15am local time on Wednesday, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. The sentence will be formally imposed at 9am on Thursday.

Robert Bowers stormed into the Tree of Life Synagogue in 2018, where members of the three congregations that shared the synagogue were meeting.

Members of the Dor Hadash, New Light and Tree of Life congregations were all killed in the attack. Two other worshippers and five responding police officers were wounded during the shooting.

According to evidence during the trial, Bowers told police at the synagogue that “all these Jews need to die”. Before the attack, he disseminated or liked anti-Semitic content on a far-right social media platform.

During the trial, prosecutors played portions of 911 calls made by Bernice Simon before she was killed.

The victims were Joyce Fienberg, Richard Gottfried, Rose Mallinger, Dr Jerry Rabinowitz, brothers David and Cecil Rosenthal, Bernice Simon and her husband Sylvan Simon, Dan Stein, Melvin Wax and Irving Younger.

“My world has fallen apart,” Sharyn Stein, Mr Stein’s widow, told the jury.

Defence lawyers argued that Bowers suffers from mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, and lacked the necessary level of intent that would require the death penalty, Reuters reported. However, that was ultimately rejected by the jury.

Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, who hid in a bathroom during the attack, in a statement said “it is my hope that we can begin to heal and move forward”.

Survivors and victims' families will have the opportunity to address Bowers before he is formally sentenced.

They were also scheduled to hold a press conference on Thursday afternoon.

The verdict is the first time a death sentence has been imposed under President Joe Biden's administration. Attorney General Merrick Garland placed a moratorium on executions in July 2021.

Federal prosecutors requested a death sentence in 2019 under Donald Trump's administration.

Updated: August 03, 2023, 5:32 AM