The Tree of Life Synagogue seen in Pittsburgh, April 21, 2023. (Photo/JTA-Jahi Chikwendiu-The Washington Post via Getty Images)
The Tree of Life Synagogue seen in Pittsburgh, April 21, 2023. (Photo/JTA-Jahi Chikwendiu-The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Pittsburgh synagogue shooter sentenced to death

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PITTSBURGH (JTA) — A jury has given the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter a death sentence, handing down the maximum punishment for the deadliest antisemitic attack in American history.

The sentence marks an end to the months-long trial of Robert Bowers, who was convicted in June of murdering 11 Jews during Shabbat prayers on Oct. 27, 2018. The shooting, at a synagogue in the historically Jewish neighborhood of Squirrel Hill, changed the way Jews across the United States viewed themselves and their place in American society. It was a stark example of a rising tide of antisemitism and led Jewish institutions across the country to bolster their physical security.

The gunman’s lawyers had not contested his guilt but argued that the act was a result of his mental illness and did not merit a death sentence. On Wednesday, the jury rejected that argument, deciding unanimously that he should be put to death. Many of the victims’ families, though not all, had pushed for the gunman to receive a death sentence.

Bowers’ sentence makes him the most prominent person to be condemned to death for antisemitic crimes since Adolf Eichmann, convicted and executed by Israel in 1962 for his role in perpetrating the Holocaust.

Ron Kampeas

Ron Kampeas is the D.C. bureau chief at the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.