Another attempt by the suspect in the bloodiest attack on Jews in American history to abolish the death penalty as a possible punishment has failed.
On Tuesday, a judge rejected a defense motion that questioned the prosecution’s pursuit of the death sentence in the federal trial of Robert Bowers, which is currently in the jury selection phase.
In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Robert Colville stated that the defense team for Bowers “fails to establish a basis upon which the court could conclude that the government has arbitrarily sought the death penalty in this case.”
In connection with the murders of 11 attendees on October 27, 2018, at the Tree of Life synagogue building where three congregations had assembled, Bowers, of the Pittsburgh suburb of Baldwin, is accused on 63 criminal counts.
The accusations include 11 counts of hate crimes that resulted in death and 11 counts of obstructing the free exercise of religion.
At the scene of the attacks and in earlier online forums, according to the prosecution, Bowers made antisemitic remarks.
Throughout the first seven days of jury selection, the prosecution and defense have questioned more than 100 potential jurors, focusing on their opinions on a possible death sentence. On Wednesday, the process was continued.
The majority of the families of the victims support the prosecution’s request for the death penalty even though Bowers’ attorneys had already offered a guilty plea in exchange for a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
Most of Bowers’ attorneys’ jury interrogation centered on the jurors’ opinions about the death punishment.
Last month, Bowers’ attorneys said in court documents that the Justice Department lacked “a discernible, principled basis” for seeking the death penalty against Bowers but not other defendants in similar situations.
The defense also took issue with how the government handled Bowers’ request for them to drop their pursuit of the death penalty.
Colville concurred with the Justice Department’s claim that Bowers had not considered the distinctions between his case and those in which the government had not requested the death sentence.
The case of the synagogue massacre has already covered two administrations.
Federal executions resumed during Trump’s presidency after a 17-year hiatus, and 13 federal inmates were executed during his final six months in office.
At the time, Republican President Donald Trump declared that the killer should “suffer the ultimate price” and that the death penalty should be brought back “into vogue.”
While running for president in 2020, Democrat Joe Biden said he would work to end the federal death penalty, but detractors claim he has done nothing to bring about that change.
To examine current practices, the Justice Department imposed a moratorium. Federal prosecutors are still pursuing the death penalty for Bowers despite this fact.