PITTSBURGH — Jurors in the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting trial are considering if the man who killed 11 Jewish worshippers at the Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha Synagogue in the fall of 2018 should face the death penalty. On Tuesday, the defense put forward a motion for a court order that the body of Robert Bowers’s father should be exhumed, so investigators could collect DNA in order to confirm or deny biological parentage.
“Bowers, a 50-year-old truck driver from suburban Baldwin, was convicted in June on 63 criminal counts in the nation’s deadliest antisemitic attack. A federal jury has to decide whether to sentence him to death or life in prison without parole,” said WSAZ NewsChannel 3.
Throughout the trial, the centerpiece argument of the defendant’s lawyers has been to blame alleged severe mental-health disorders for the antisemitic attack, rather than focus on ideology as the key factor. Doctors diagnosed Bowers’ father, who killed himself in 1979, with schizophrenia, important evidence, the defense claims, in arguing that the shooter has the same condition.
The prosecution countered this, arguing that the man Bowers, now 50, regarded as his father may not have been his biological one. This prompted the defense to call for the remains of a man who has been dead for more than 40 years.
But on Wednesday morning, Judge Robert Colville sided with the prosecutor’s objection that “the issue of the defendant’s paternity is tangential and not central to the issues in this case” and that “the motion is completely untimely, and threatens delay and distraction from the pressing issues in the trial.”
“Efforts to argue that a diagnosis of schizophrenia was responible for the mass shooting have reached a new extreme,” said JNS.
Zenger News reached out to the Orthodox Union for a rabbinic perspective on removing a body from the grave in these circumstances. A spokesperson responded: “Please see the Talmud Bavli Chulin 11b, which explicitly allows exhuming a body to potentially exonerate an accused murderer on entirely different grounds.”
Produced in association with Jewish News Syndicate
Edited by Judy J. Rotich and Newsdesk Manager