Faith in the jury system confirmed

Faith in the jury system confirmed

We commend the jury for its decision in the eligibility phase and recognize it as an unequivocal statement against the normalization of antisemitism.

On June 16, a federal jury determined that the man who murdered 11 beloved community members was guilty on all 63 counts he faced. Last Thursday, that same jury declared he was eligible to be sentenced to death for his crimes. This week began the third and final phase of the trial, in which the same jury will determine the appropriate sentence.

Regardless of the ultimate sentencing verdict, we commend the jury for its decision in the eligibility phase and recognize it as an unequivocal statement against the normalization of antisemitism.

Throughout the eligibility phase, defense attorneys sought to prove that the defendant was mentally impaired, and that his hatred of Jews stemmed from delusions rather than the white supremacist culture he embraced. The shooter believed and was motivated by the idea that Jews were helping bring immigrants into the United States with the goal of white genocide — a claim reflecting a widespread conspiracy theory known as the “great replacement.” The defense argued that belief was so outlandish that it proved the killer was too mentally compromised to have intended to commit his antisemitic rampage. Therefore, his lawyers averred, he was ineligible for capital punishment.

The jury, however, agreed with the prosecution that the shooter’s crimes could not be excused by a purported mental illness. Rather, his beliefs about Jews originated not with him, but were based on the longstanding, hateful tropes promulgated in white supremacist subculture.

As forensic psychiatrist Park Dietz — who interviewed the defendant for 15 hours — testified, his crimes were the consequence of decades of right-wing extremism.

“When you see this promoted for 20 years or 40 years, promoted in books and online forums, it is clear they are subcultural beliefs,” Dietz said — and not the delusions of an individual.

It took the jury less than two hours to reach its verdict.

By summarily rejecting the defense proposition that only someone who is mentally ill could adhere to and act upon an antisemitic creed, the jurors acknowledged the reality of the culture of white supremacism, and its pervasive and deadly manifestations.

And they emphatically and unanimously held that a crime inspired by that culture warrants consideration of the ultimate

We are heartened that a jury comprised of a cross-section of the community delivered a resounding rejection of hate. In these days of rising antisemitism, where Jews are the target of more than 50% of religiously-motivated hate crimes — despite representing just 2.4% of the population — we are reassured that mainstream America will not abide, or excuse, this vile ideology.

As the trial continues, we remember Joyce Fienberg, Richard Gottfried, Rose Mallinger, Jerry Rabinowitz, Cecil Rosenthal, David Rosenthal, Bernice Simon, Sylvan Simon, Daniel Stein, Melvin Wax and Irving Younger. May their memories forever be for a blessing. PJC

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