A prosecutor urged jurors on Wednesday to consider the gunman responsible for the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in American history to be eligible for the death sentence because he planned the 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue massacre and preyed on helpless victims as they started Sabbath worship.

This undated Pennsylvania Department of Transport photo shows Robert Bowers. The gunman who massacred 11 worshippers at Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018. Has a “very serious mental health history” from childhood and a “markedly abnormal” brain, a defense expert testified. (Source: AP News)

Death Sentence for Being Found Guilty of the Synagogue Massacre

According to the published report from AP News, the defendant defiled the sacred, secure sanctuary that was the Tree of Life Synagogue on October 27, 2018. In the sentencing phase for Robert Bowers, who was found guilty in the attack that took 11 lives, prosecutor Soo Song told the jury that Bowers turned the area into a killing field. Michael Burt, Bowers’ defense attorney, however, supported his assertion that a “delusional belief system took over his thinking,” leaving him powerless to act other than “following the dictates” of those delusional notions, by citing expert witnesses.

Deliberations by the jury began on Wednesday afternoon and will continue on Thursday morning. On Wednesday, Burt acknowledged a few aggravating elements, including the fact that Bowers’ attack posed a serious risk of death and that several of the victims were weak because of their advanced age or mental impairment. He said, however, that Bowers’ schizophrenia, epilepsy, and mistaken notion that he could halt a genocide of white people by eliminating Jews who aid immigrants affected his capacity to create intent. They will determine if Bowers is deserving of the death sentence as the sentencing procedure, which is in its third week, is at this point.

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Life Sentence or Death Sentence? What does Bower Deserve?

If Bowers is found to be eligible for the death sentence, the jury will hear testimony in the upcoming weeks before choosing whether to execute him. Bowers will be given a life sentence without the possibility of parole if it is found that he is ineligible, Judge Robert Colville stated during jury instructions on Wednesday morning. The jury must find that Bowers had the intent to kill and that at least one aggravating circumstance rendered the conduct extremely heinous for the case to pass the eligibility level.

Song rejected the notion that Bowers lacked self-control. Song said Bowers characterized himself as calm and concentrated while he fired to kill, adding that Bowers told one of the defense’s expert medical witnesses that he painstakingly planned the attack, considered other potential Jewish targets, and regrets that he killed only a few.

Even if Bowers experienced epilepsy or schizophrenia, Song argued that this did not exclude him from developing the will to kill.

Bowers, a 50-year-old truck driver from the Baldwin suburb, was found guilty of 63 crimes last month. These comprise 11 counts of murder committed with a firearm and 11 counts each of obstructing the free exercise of religion resulting in death. Both of these offenses are punishable by the death sentence.

His defenders proposed a guilty plea in exchange for a life term in prison, but the prosecution declined, choosing to go to trial and seek the death sentence instead. The majority of the victims’ relatives agreed with that choice.

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