Attorney Scott W. Brady comments following Pittsburgh synagogue shooter Robert Bowers’ court appearance

The gunman accused of murdering 11 in a mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in 2018 is now on trial in a federal courtroom in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

On 27 October 2018, Robert Bowers, then 46, entered the synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighbourhood of the city armed with three handguns, an AR-15 rifle and a trove of magazines and ammunition.

Inside, he opened fire on congregants in what marks the deadliest antisemitic attack in American history.

Eight men and three women – aged from 54 to 97 – died in the massacre.

After numerous delays, the now-50-year-old is finally standing trial for more than 60 federal charges including obstruction of free exercise of religion resulting in death and hate crimes resulting in death.

During opening arguments on Tuesday, Mr Bowers’ attorneys admitted that he was responsible for the massacre but claimed that he acted on “an irrational motive” and had “misguided intent”.

Prosecutors meanwhile pointed out that, in the months leading up the shooting, the suspect had been spewing bigoted and antisemitic vitriol online.

If convicted, he could face the death penalty.


Dan Leger recalls being shot in the chest during Tree of Life mass shooting

Mr Leger was at the Tree of Life synagogue the day of the shooting.

After a recess for lunch, Mr Leger described his experiences during the attack.

He said he began to hear gunfire and instinctively moved toward the sound hoping to help others injured in the attack. When he reached the lobby, the gunman shot him, hitting him in the chest. Mr Leger collapsed in a stairway.

He told the court he is a registered nurse, realised he was losing the ability to breathe and felt he was dying.

“I am a nurse, I have been with hundreds of people that were dying, I felt like I was dying,” he said.

Thankfully, he was rescued by SWAT officers and survived his injuries.

Graig Graziosi1 June 2023 11:00


Carol Black’s testimony reveals moment fellow worshiper was killed in front of her

On day two of the trial, Carol Black, 71, a retired clinical audiologist, took the stand to share her experience on the day of the shooting.

She recalled Rabbi Jeffrey Myers telling her and others to hide in a small, dark closet as gunfire rang out throughout the building.

Another individual who was hiding with her, Mel Wax, 87, was partially in the doorway of the closet and partially in the connecting hallway.

After some time, Mr Wax thought the shooting might be over. He peaked around the door, but the shooter was in the sanctuary and fired at him. He fell to floor dying just inches from Ms Black’s feet.

Ms Black recalled having to step over his body and a pool of blood to exit the space after the shooting. She said she gave him a silent goodbye as she fled the building.

Her brother, Richard Gottfried, was also killed in the shooting.

Graig Graziosi1 June 2023 10:00


ICYMI: Exhibits from the shooting

Here’s a look at some of the powerful evidence presented to the jury so far.

Graig Graziosi1 June 2023 09:00


Trial day 2

Day two of the trial of Robert Bowers began in Pittsburgh on Wednesday morning.

Judge Robert Colville noted to attendees that a visitor to the courtroom yesterday was diagnosed with Covid-19. The judge assured those in attendance that the courtroom was cleaned and well ventilated.

Graig Graziosi1 June 2023 08:00


Bowers faces death penalty if convicted

If convicted, Robert Bowers could face the death penalty.

His attorneys had previously requested a plea deal for him to plead guilty in exchange for the death penalty being taken off the table.

Prosecutors rejected the request, paving the way for the case to head to trial.

Graig Graziosi1 June 2023 07:00


ICYMI: Opening arguments: The defence

In her opening statement, Robert Bowers’ attorney Judy Clarke admitted that he went to Tree of Life in 2018 and “shot every person he saw” and said that “there is no making sense of this senseless act.

Mr Bowers caused extraordinary harm to many, many people.”

But Ms Clarke suggested that in Mr Bowers’ mind, he genuinely believed was trying to help people by targeting Jews. Mr Bowers’ lawyers have also claimed that he has epilepsy and schizophrenia.

Whether Mr Bowers would actually be killed by the state if convicted remains to be seen. President Joe Biden voiced his opposition to the death penalty when he ran for president in 2020, and Attorney General Merrick Garland placed a moritorium on all federal executions two years ago.

Graig Graziosi1 June 2023 06:00


ICYMI: Opening arguments: The prosecution

In the prosecution’s opening statement, lead prosecutor Soo C. Song told jurors that Robert Bowers was motivated by his hatred of Jewish people.

Pointing to social media posts made before the massacre, Ms Song said that the defendant wanted “to destroy, to kill and to defile” Jews.

“Jews are a cancer on the planet, Jews are evil creatures, Jews are pedophiles,” he had posted online before the attack.

That day, he then drove to the majority Jewish neighbourhood with an trove of weapons.

“Once he entered the synagogue the defendant began to hunt, he moved from room to room, upstairs and downstairs … looking for Jewish worshippers to kill,” she said.

The prosecutor described the attack in graphic detail, including how Mr Bowers shot one woman in the face as she tried to protect her daughter.

Graig Graziosi1 June 2023 04:59


Pittsburgh Jewish community monitoring hate speech amid trial

The head of security for Pittsburgh’s Jewish community says there has been an “uptick in hate speech” on the internet, but no specific threats, in the early stages of the trial of the man accused of killing 11 worshippers at a synagogue here in 2018.

And Jewish leaders say that while the trial is bringing out the worst of extremists in some dark corners of the web, it’s also brought an outpouring of support from the community — ranging from law enforcement agencies helping with security to local food vendors collaborating to bring meals to victims’ families during the trial.

Shawn Brokos, director of community security for the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, said officials have monitored “general chatter in support of the defendant … and his hateful vitriol” on the internet. The materials “would turn anyone’s stomach,” she said.

Graig Graziosi1 June 2023 04:00


Who were the victims?

The shooting at Tree of Life traumatised the historically Jewish Squirrel Hill community and Jews across the nation. Eleven people were killed during the shooting and seven more were injured. The first people killed were the brothers Cecil and David Rosenthal. Jerry Rabinowitz, a physician, was killed after moving towards the sound of the shooting to see if anyone needed medical assistance.

The shooting was the deadliest antisemitic attack in American history, and it carried a particular edge given that it was linked to HIAS’ work protecting and resettling refugees — work born out of the Jewish experience of persecution in Europe in the decades leading up to the Holocaust.

The people who lost their lives in the shooting were: Joyce Fienberg, 75, Richard Gottfried, 65, Rose Mallinger, 97, Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, Cecil and David Rosenthal, 59 and 54, Bernice and Sylvan Simon, 84 and 86, Daniel Stein, 71, Melvin Wax, 88, and Irving Younger, 69.

Graig Graziosi1 June 2023 03:00


Who is Robert Bowers? The alleged antisemite on trial for Tree of Life synagogue shooting

On 27, October, 2018, Robert Bowers, then 46, allegedly walked into the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and began shooting at worshippers.

He allegedly killed 11 people before he was shot and wounded and surrendered to police. Mr Bowers now faces 63 federal counts, including 11 counts each of obstruction of free exercise of religion resulting in death as well as hate crimes resulting in death. He could face the death penalty if convicted. He has pleaded not guilty.

Graig Graziosi1 June 2023 02:00

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