U.S. Prosecutors Contemplate Death Penalty for Accused Pittsburgh Shooter

Pittsburgh ShooterUpdated: May 23, 2019 / 6:11 a.m.

A case that involves Robert Bowers, the man who is accused of massacring 11 people at the Tree of Life, a Pittsburgh’s synagogue last year, was scheduled to return to a federal courtroom on Thursday, as prosecutors contemplate whether or not to pursue with the death penalty against him.

Bowers, 46, is accused of charging into the synagogue on Oct. 27 with a semi-automatic rifle and three other firearms while shouting “all Jews must die” as he began opening fire on congregants gathered for a Sabbath service.

In the U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh, Bowers had pleaded not guilty to a 63-count indictment. Some of the charges, including murder as a hate crime, can carry out the death penalty.

During Thursday’s hearing, prosecutors may discuss whether they will seek the death penalty for Bowers. The session is a routine hearing that will review the status of the case.

Currently, the United States sees an incline in the number of hate crimes and the number of hate groups, according to separate reports from both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Death penalty specialist Judith Clarke, who is one of Bowers’ attorneys, said during his previous hearing that the defendant hopes to settle without a trial. A negotiated plea deal might allow Bowers to avoid facing the possibility of execution.

Prosecutors claim that Bowers has frequently posted anti-Semitic comments on right-wing social-media websites, including a post on the morning of the shooting in which he criticized the work of a U.S. Jewish charity, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.

Among those who were murdered in the attack were two brothers in their 50s, a 97-year-old woman, and a married couple in their 80s. Two civilians and five police officers were also wounded in the crossfire before the gunman was shot down by police and eventually surrendered.

Ahead of Thursday’s hearing, Bowers also filed a motion to the court through his lawyers, which Judge Donetta Ambrose granted to be sealed from the public view per the request of Bowers.