PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The Justice Department will seek the death penalty for the Tree of Life Synagogue mass shooting suspect Robert Bowers.
The Justice Department filed for the death penalty on Monday.READ MORE: Frick Park Bridge Collapse: 10 People Injured, 4 Sent To Hospital
KDKA’s Chris Hoffman Reports:
Bowers is accused of killing 11 people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill last October.
The filing backs up what U.S. Attorney Scott W. Brady had indicated when he charged Bowers with the obstruction of an exercise of religious belief resulting in death, a hate crime that could merit execution under the federal system.
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The filing is a blow to defense attorney and death penalty opponent Judy Clarke, who has tried to initiate plea bargain discussions with the government in an attempt to exchange a guilty plea and a life sentence for Bowers.READ MORE: At Site Of Pittsburgh Bridge Collapse, President Joe Biden Promises To 'Fix Them All'
The decision to seek the death penalty comes shortly after two of the three congregations that worshiped at Tree of Life said they wanted Bowers to serve life and avoid the death penalty.
A week before the notice to seek the death penalty was filed, Stephen Cohen of the New Light Congregation told KDKA’s Andy Sheehan that a quick end to the process would have spared his congregants the trauma of living Oct. 27 all over again.
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“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,” Cohen said earlier this month.
In addition to killing 11 people and wounding others, the government cited Bowers’ planning, killing vulnerable victims, animus towards the Jewish faith and lack of remorse in their filing.
Congregation Dor Hadash wrote a letter to Attorney General Barr, saying in part:
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“We believe that the elimination of a trial and publicity for the shooter serves the interest of our congregation, as well as the general public. A plea bargain for life without parole will prevent this individual from getting the attention and publicity that would inevitably come with a trial.”
A spokesperson for the Dor Hadash Congregation also said in the letter that a plea bargain for life without parole would “eliminate the possibility of further trauma” that could come from a trial and protracted appeals.