Day six of the federal death penalty trial for the man accused of killing 11 Jews in the Tree of Life building focused on the wounds received by his victims. Autopsies revealed that he shot his victims multiple times and at close range.
Forensic pathologist Ashton Ennis, who examined four of the victims on the day after the 2018 shooting, testified on the manner in which four victims were shot: Cecil Rosenthal, Irving Younger, Daniel Stein and Melvin Wax.
Prosecutors are arguing that the defendant receive the federal death penalty, and that his motivation for the crime was his hatred for Jewish people.
U.S. District Judge Robert Colville has already ruled that graphic photos are relevant to the trial and has allowed them to be presented to a jury. He cautioned jurors that their eventual ruling should not be based on “passion or prejudice” before prosecutors displayed the images.
Ennis’ testimony revealed that Wax, 88, died from a gunshot to the chest defined as a “contact wound,” meaning that the gun was pressed against him when the defendant fired. Like the other victims that Ennis examined, Wax suffered multiple gunshot wounds.
The defendant used an AR-15 rifle, a type of gun that causes increased damage to victims. Ennis’ autopsies revealed that the three of the four victims that he examined were shot in the head. Only one, Rosenthal, was shot from multiple yards away.
Defense lawyers are not arguing that he didn’t do it, only that he should be spared the death penalty.
Previous testimony has focused on the emergency response teams, including police and SWAT teams, that engaged in a shootout with the defendant after the murders were committed.
The trial on Tuesday afternoon stayed focused on forensics, with another forensic pathologist, Baiyang Xu, M.D., testifying about his autopsies of four other victims. Two, Rose Mallinger and Jerry Rabinowitz, suffered devastating head wounds.
Xu said that Mallinger, 97 when she was killed, was in great health at the time of her death, with no heart trouble. PJC
Harrison Hamm, a rising senior at Denison University, is a Union Progress summer intern. He can be reached at email@example.com. This first appeared on the Pittsburgh Union Progress. 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.