The decision comes weeks after Robert Bowers was convicted of killing 11 worshipers at the Tree of Life synagogue in 2018.
A United States federal court has ruled that a person who had a gun killed 11 people synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018 is eligible to face the death penalty.
The verdict Thursday comes nearly a month after a jury found Robert Bowers guilty of 63 counts related to the attack on the Tree of Life synagogue, including. hate crimes causing death and restricting the free exercise of religion causing death.
Both prosecutors and defense attorneys must now argue for Bowers’ death sentence, and the jury will return to deliberations.
In federal cases in the US, a unanimous vote is required for the accused to be put to death. If the jury fails to reach a unanimous decision, Bowers will be sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Bowers, 50, a truck driver from the Pittsburgh suburb of Baldwin, killed three churchgoers in the attack on October 27, 2018. He also injured two worshipers and five police officers.
Bowers spoke on social media about his anti-Semitism before the shooting and told police at the scene that “all these Jews deserve to die”. He told psychologists who later examined him, including as recently as May, that he was happy with what he did.
At the time of a caseProsecutor Mary Hahn said Bowers had a long history of engaging in and promoting anti-Semitic and anti-white behavior online.
He said: “He hates Jews a lot. “That’s what made him take action.”
Bowers’ defense team, meanwhile, denied he followed through the theory of the “great replacement” schemewhich falsely claims that whites in the US are being systematically replaced by non-whites.
His lawyers said that while the attack was wrong, it was based on “absurd and irrational” beliefs and not anti-Semitism.
The trial included harrowing testimony from survivors.
“I just lay on the ground motionless if he was there or if he was coming back. I didn’t want them to know I was alive,” Andrea Wedner, whose 97-year-old mother, Rose Mallinger, was killed in the attack, told jurors.
During the sentencing hearing, prosecutors argued that Bowers had demonstrated the necessary intent and planning to qualify for the death penalty. They gave witnesses and evidence that they had carefully planned the attack for several months.
US Attorney Eric Olshan argued that Bowers was not a liar, but that he “just believed in dirty things”.
Bowers’ defense attorneys have argued that he suffers from serious mental illness, including schizophrenia, and therefore has no motive to justify the death penalty.
He offered a life sentence, but prosecutors refused, opting instead for a mistrial and the death penalty.
If the jury finds Bower guilty of death, it would be the first death sentence handed down under US President Joe Biden.
Despite Mr. Biden’s campaign pledge to end capital punishment, federal prosecutors continue to press ahead the death penalty sometimes.