A federal jury in the United States has sentenced to death the perpetrator of the October 2018 attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue that resulted in the deaths of eleven people.
The ruling needed a unanimous vote from the 12-member jury for the sentence to be imposed. Prosecutors had asked the jury to vote for the death penalty.
The same jury convicted the man guilty of all 63 charges related to the Tree of Life synagogue attack. It was the worst anti-Semitic assault in United States history.
Wednesday, the verdict was presented to US District Court Judge Robert Colville. Mr. Colville is now anticipated to enforce the verdict of the jury.
The jury deliberated for ten hours over the course of two days. On the second day of discussions, a decision was obtained.
In the attack, Robert Bowers killed 11 worshippers spanning in age from 54 to 97. Seven others, including five police officers who raced to the scene, were injured.
The synagogue was shared by three congregations: Dor Hadash, New Light, and the Tree of Life. According to reporters inside the courtroom, Bowers did not react as the verdict of death was pronounced.
Some, including the Dor Hadash congregation, have voiced opposition to the death penalty for Bowers. However, the majority of families of those slain in the attack have stated their support for the death penalty.
Wednesday at a news conference, numerous families and survivors expressed their relief at the verdict. Rabbi Jeffrey Myers of the Tree of Life Congregation, an attack survivor, stated that the jury's verdict provides the community with some finality.
Rabbi Myers stated, "Today, we have received an enormous embrace from the corridors of justice surrounding us all, declaring that our government does not condone antisemitism in its most violent form."
Another survivor, Audrey Glickman, described the verdict as a step in the correct direction. She mentioned that had they not had this prosecution, the deeds of this criminal would have been erased from history.
Rose Mallinger's family stated, "Returning a death sentence is not a simple decision, but we must hold accountable those who wish to commit such heinous acts of anti-Semitism, hatred, and violence."
During the trial, prosecutors argued that the death penalty was necessary because the 50-year-old truck driver continues to hate Jews and has shown no remorse for his actions.
US Attorney Eric Olshan stated, "This case calls for the most draconian punishment permitted by law: the death penalty." The defense argued that Bowers' mental health issues led to his delusional beliefs about Jews.
In its verdict handed down on Wednesday, the jury unanimously concluded that the defense failed to establish the gunman suffered from a mental disorder or committed the crimes "while suffering from mental or emotional disturbance."
In addition, they ruled that all five aggravating factors in the case were demonstrated, including Bowers' killing of the worshippers inside the synagogue and the permanent impact on the survivors.
On Thursday, Bowers is expected to receive a formal sentence. Federal prosecutors pursue the death penalty infrequently.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, between 1988 and 2021, only 79 defendants were sentenced to death in such cases. The verdict represents the first federal death sentence under the presidency of Joe Biden.