A jury is set to deliberate whether to impose the death penalty or a sentence of life in prison without parole on a truck driver who spewed antisemitic hate before fatally shooting 11 worshippers at a synagogue in the heart of Pittsburgh’s Jewish community.
The same jurors who convicted 50-year-old Robert Bowers in June on 63 criminal counts listened to closing arguments Monday in the penalty phase of his federal trial, held nearly five years after the truck driver from suburban Baldwin perpetrated the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history.
Bowers defiled a place of worship when he entered the Tree of Life synagogue on Oct. 27, 2018, and opened fire with an AR-15 rifle, shooting everyone he could find in a mass murder clearly motivated by religious hatred, said U.S. Attorney Eric Olshan.
Bowers raved incessantly on social media about his hatred of Jewish people, using a slur for Jewish people some 400 times on a social media platform favored by the far right, 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 said.
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.