Jurors unanimously decided on Thursday that the man who killed 11 worshippers in the Tree of Life building on Oct. 27, 2018, is eligible to receive the death penalty.
The verdict was delivered at approximately 10:20 a.m. The decision, which was reached after about two hours of deliberation, closes a three-week process during which the defense tried to prove the shooter was not eligible for the death penalty because of various mental illnesses and that his antisemitism resulted from delusions.
In rejecting the defense’s claims, jurors found the defendant intentionally and specifically engaged in violence, knowingly created great risk of death and planned and promoted the killings.
After Judge Robert J. Colville read the unanimous decision, lead defense attorney Judy Clarke asked him to poll the jury. Each of the 12 jurors stood and affirmed that the defendant was eligible for capital punishment.
Last month, the jurors found the defendant guilty on all 63 federal counts he faced, including 22 capital offenses.
Thursday morning’s decision ensures the trial against the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter moves to phase three, the penalty mitigation phase. During that final portion of the trial, jurors will hear impact statements from family members of those killed — Joyce Fienberg, Richard Gottfried, Rose Mallinger, Jerry Rabinowitz, Cecil Rosenthal, David Rosenthal, Bernice Simon, Sylvan Simon, Daniel Stein, Melvin Wax and Irving Younger. Others who were injured or otherwise affected will offer statements as well.
The defense will offer mitigating evidence about the defendant. Jurors will then determine whether he should receive the death penalty or life in prison.
Phase three will begin Monday, July 17.
Colville said there are “no guarantees,” but he expects the trial to continue another seven to 10 days. PJC
Adam Reinherz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story is part of ongoing coverage of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting trial by the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle and the Pittsburgh Union Progress in a collaboration supported by funding from the Pittsburgh Media Partnership.