A jury found Robert Bowers eligible for the death penalty Thursday after he shot and killed 11 people at a Jewish synagogue in 2018, according to CNN.
Bowers was found guilty in June of 63 charges, including “eleven counts of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death” after failing to negotiate a plea deal with prosecutors to take the death penalty off the table. The defense had been arguing over the past two weeks that Bowers was not competent to be given the highest sentence but the jury disagreed, according to CNN. (RELATED: House Committee Budget Proposes Another Million Dollars To Fight Global Antisemitism)
The jury deliberated for roughly two hours before handing down the verdict Thursday after nearly two weeks of testimony and arguments from the defense, prosecution and 20 witnesses, according to CNN.
The prosecution argued that Bowers’ expressed antisemitic views like “All Jews had to die” clearly demonstrated his intent to harm the members of the Jewish community, which is necessary for a death penalty sentencing, according to CNN. The defense, on the other hand, tried to emphasize Bowers’ mental health issues, including attempting to diagnose him with schizophrenia which they blamed for his views about Jews.
Bowers killed 11 during his attack with a semi-automatic rifle on Oct. 27, 2018, and injured six others. After his arrest, Bowers told police that he had purposely targeted Jewish people, leading the DOJ to eventually elevate the charges to a hate crime.
The judge agreed to split the trial into three phases — the guilt phase, the eligibility phase and the sentencing selection phase, instead of the standard two, according to CNN. The judge is expected to reconvene in the coming days to begin the sentencing phase.
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