Published on: Wednesday, August 2, 2023

A federal jury has sentenced Pittsburgh synagogue mass shooter Robert Bowers to death (article available here).

Bowers was convicted of killing 11 worshippers in the attack, ranging in age from 54 to 97. Seven others were injured, including five police officers who rushed to the scene.

Wednesday's verdict came on the second day of deliberations. The judge will formally sentence Bowers in a court hearing on Thursday that will include victim impact statements.

Bowers had offered to plead guilty if the death penalty was taken off the table, but prosecutors turned him down.

Bowers’ lawyers presented evidence of a horrific childhood marked by trauma and neglect. They also claimed Bowers had severe, untreated mental illness, saying he killed out of a delusional belief that Jews were helping to cause a genocide of white people. The defense argued that schizophrenia and brain abnormalities made Bowers more susceptible to being influenced by the extremist content he found online.

The synagogue has been closed since the shootings. The Tree of Life congregation is working on an overhauled synagogue complex that would house a sanctuary, museum, memorial and center for fighting antisemitism.

It was the first federal death sentence imposed during the presidency of Joe Biden, whose 2020 campaign included a pledge to end capital punishment.

Biden’s Justice Department has placed a moratorium on federal executions and has declined to authorize the death penalty in hundreds of new cases where it could apply.