PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – They don’t want a trial or an execution. In letters to U.S. Attorney General William Barr, they won’t even dignify the accused killer by name.
But two of the three congregations who worshipped at Tree of Life want Robert Bowers to be put away for life without parole and never heard from again.
“Let him stew for as long as he lives. That is suitable punishment,” said Stephen Cohen of the New Light Congregation.
U.S. Attorney W. Scott Brady is seeking the death penalty, charging Bowers with obstruction of an exercise of religious belief resulting in death — a hate crime which could merit execution under the federal system.
But defense attorney Judy Clarke has offered a guilty plea in exchange for life for Bowers.
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And congregations New Light and Dor Hadash want the government to take the deal.
New Light Co-President Cohen says a quick end to the process would spare his congregants the trauma of living Oct. 27 all over again.
“The people who have to testify, the people who have to watch, the people who have to relive every day — it’s just mind-boggling.”
The third congregation, Tree of Life, offered no comment.
But while some congregants object to the death penalty on moral grounds, Cohen says convicts can languish on death row for years, even decades, and that would not bring closure.
“If the trial could occur today, and he was declared guilty, and it was a capital crime, and he could be taken out and hung or electrocuted within a week, that would be a very different story. But that’s not the country we live in,” Cohen said.
The two congregations believe that the best way to get on with their grief and recovery is to avoid a trial altogether. Ultimately, that will be up to Attorney General Barr.