Federal Jury Recommends Death Penalty for Pittsburgh Synagogue Attacker

The Same Federal Jury That Recommends Robert Bowers to Death For the Tree of Life Synagogue Attack Recommended Wednesday

The death penalty is expensive, and siphons off money that could be better spent fighting crime. It also limits due process and curtails appeals, the only means to correct serious miscarriages of justice.

Recidivism among convicted murderers does occur, but that is far less frequent than most people believe. The best way to prevent recidivism is through life without parole.

PITTSBURGH (CBS) — A judge formally imposed a death sentence on a man convicted of killing 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

The same jury that convicted Robert Bowers on all 63 federal charges last month recommended he be put to death for the attack that killed 11 people at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue. Prosecutors said he exhibited the required level of intent and premeditation for a death penalty sentence. But defense attorneys argued that Bowers suffers from major mental illness, including schizophrenia, and therefore lacks the necessary intent.

As the judge read the verdict, relatives of the victims fought back tears and comforted each other. Bowers, 50, showed no reaction as the jurors affirmed their votes.

Rabbi Olshan described the federal trial as both difficult for families and a “necessary accounting.” She added that while no verdict can bring back the victims, it will help prevent the shooter from gaining notoriety and being an inspiration for others who share his antisemitic beliefs. The formal sentencing is set for Thursday and will include victims’ family members who are expected to speak publicly.

A federal jury in the trial of the Pittsburgh synagogue mass shooter has decided he is eligible for the death penalty.

The same federal jury that convicted Robert Bowers on 63 criminal counts recommended Wednesday that he be put to death for the deadliest antisemitic attack on U.S. soil. Bowers, 50, stormed the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood on Oct. 27, 2018, killing 11 worshippers and wounding a dozen more, including five responding police officers.

Prosecutors focused on the shooter’s documented history of antisemitism throughout his trial and argued that it proved he had the requisite intent to kill. The defense unsuccessfully tried to argue that mental illness and delusional beliefs led to the massacre.

Survivors and family members of victims were in the courtroom to hear the verdict, which came after more than 10 hours of deliberations. The jurors agreed that Bowers planned his attack, committed a premeditated act, and selected targets that were vulnerable, elderly or disabled. They also agreed that there are aggravating factors such as the scope of the murders, lack of remorse and injury to surviving victims.

James Barber was executed for the beating death of Dorothy Epps in Alabama’s first lethal injection since difficulties inserting IVs led to a halt.

Using drugs that suppress breathing, James Barber, 64, was executed at an Alabama prison. He was convicted of beating Dorothy Epps, 75, to death with a claw hammer and fleeing with her purse in 2001.

The state resumed executions after governor Kay Ivey paused them in November to review procedures. Barber’s execution was the first since then.

He made a last statement and spoke with a spiritual adviser who was with him in the death chamber. Then he was given the lethal injection, which is the same one used in other states.

Across the country, majorities of adults support the death penalty for murderers. But opinions differ by party, education and race and ethnicity. For example, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are more likely to support the death penalty than Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents. Similarly, Whites are more likely to support it than Blacks. And people with less education are more likely to support it than those with a college degree or higher.

CBS News’ Scott MacFarlane has more.

Every day people around the world are sentenced to death for a wide range of crimes. Many are convicted after trials that fall short of international standards, including torture-tainted evidence and inadequate legal representation. Others languish on death row for years, not knowing when their last day will be.

CBS News’ Scott MacFarlane covers the justice system for all CBS News broadcasts and platforms. He has won multiple awards for his work, including a Wade H. McCree award for journalism about the justice system. His work on teacher licensing loopholes, child sexual abuse allegations and thoroughbred horse racing deaths has gained national attention. He has also investigated a congressional firestorm that resulted in the resignation of U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. Prior to joining CBS News, he was a political and enterprise reporter for local TV stations in Cleveland and Detroit. He has also hosted a syndicated radio talk show. MacFarlane is a graduate of Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications.

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