PITTSBURGH – A jury is ready to deliberate whether or not to impose the loss of life penalty or a sentence of life in jail with out parole on a person who spewed antisemitic hate earlier than fatally capturing 11 worshippers at a synagogue within the coronary heart of Pittsburgh’s Jewish neighborhood.

The identical jurors who convicted 50-year-old Robert Bowers in June on 63 prison counts listened to closing arguments Monday within the penalty section of his federal trial, held almost 5 years after the truck driver from suburban Baldwin perpetrated the deadliest assault on Jews in U.S. historical past.

Bowers defiled a spot of worship when he entered the Tree of Life synagogue on Oct. 27, 2018, and opened hearth with an AR-15 rifle, capturing everybody he might discover in a mass homicide clearly motivated by spiritual hatred, mentioned U.S. Legal professional Eric Olshan.

Bowers raved incessantly on social media about his hatred of Jewish folks — utilizing a slur for Jewish folks some 400 instances on a social media platform favored by the far proper — and stays proud that he killed Jews, the prosecutor reminded jurors,

“Do not be numb to it. Remember what it means. This defendant targeted people solely because of the faith that they chose,” Olshan mentioned.

He added: “This is a case that calls for the most severe punishment under the law: the death penalty.”

The defense was expected to deliver its closing argument later Monday.

Bowers’ attorneys have argued that he has schizophrenia, a serious brain disorder whose symptoms include delusions and hallucinations, and that Bowers attacked the synagogue out of a delusional belief that Jews were helping to bring about a genocide of white people by coming to the aid of refugees and immigrants. The defense has also presented evidence of Bowers’ difficult childhood.

Olshan disputed the defense experts’ diagnosis of schizophrenia, asserting Bowers was not suffering psychosis but had chosen to believe white supremacist rhetoric. And while acknowledging there’s no question that Bowers was a depressed, neglected child, Olshan downplayed the significance of it, noting that Bowers had held jobs, paid bills, and was an otherwise functioning adult.

“He was not a child, he was a grown man. He was responsible for his actions, not his family and things that happened decades earlier. He was, he is responsible for his actions,” Olshan said.

In order to impose death, jurors must find that aggravating circumstances, which make the crime especially heinous, outweigh mitigating factors that could be seen as diminishing his culpability. Those aggravating circumstances could include the vulnerability of Bowers’ elderly and disabled victims and his targeting of Jewish people.

Olshan played a composite of 911 calls made from inside the synagogue, including audio of people being shot and a survivor’s horrified screams.

He said Bowers had taken “11 people, 11 full lives, 11 people who loved their families, 11 people who loved their friends, 11 people who were loved. … How do you measure the impact of all of that loss?”

The prosecutor spoke about 75-year-old Joyce Fienberg’s take care of her household and 65-year-old Richard Gottfried’s devotion to his religion. He mentioned Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, had the ethos of a rustic physician: “He loved delivering babies but he never delivered judgment.” David Rosenthal, 54, and Cecil Rosenthal, 59, intellectually disabled brothers, “liked life,” Olshan said. “However perhaps greater than something, they liked Tree of Life.”

The other deceased victims were Rose Mallinger, 97; Bernice Simon, 84, and her husband, Sylvan Simon, 86; Dan Stein, 71; Melvin Wax, 87; and Irving Younger, 69.

The attack also wounded seven people, including five responding police officers. Bowers was shot three times before surrendering when he ran out of ammunition.


Rubinkam reported from northeastern Pennsylvania.

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