(This story first published in the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle.)

Federal prosecutors in the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting case filed a 124-page brief opposing the convicted killer’s motion seeking a new trial.

Robert Bowers, the man who murdered 11 worshippers on Oct. 27, 2018, in the Tree of Life building, was convicted in June on 63 counts — including 11 for the obstruction of the free exercise of religion. He was sentenced to death in August.

In November, he asked U.S. District Judge Robert J. Colville for a judgment of acquittal and a new trial, claiming among other things that there was not enough evidence presented to show that he intended to obstruct each of the victims in their free exercise of religion. Instead, he claims that his attack was motivated because of his opposition to the work of HIAS, a Jewish agency that helps to resettle refugees.

Motions for acquittal and a new trial are common after a conviction. 

Prosecutors responded to the defendant’s motion by noting that the jury considered the defendant’s argument at the close of the trial’s guilt phase and “squarely rejected it.”

“The jury’s decision was both rational and supported by overwhelming evidence — including over 600 exhibits and the testimony of scores of survivors, experts and law enforcement officers — all of which established beyond any reasonable doubt that the defendant killed every Jewish worshipper at a specific time and place where they were actively practicing their faith because he disagreed with their adherence to the religious tenets of Judaism,” the prosecution’s opposition brief argues. 

“The defendant repeatedly cited biblical passages to promote violence and hatred against Jews, including calling Jews the ‘children of Satan’ and worshippers in the ‘synagogue of Satan’ in his social media account on Gab,” the prosecution brief continues. “And he openly admitted to law enforcement officers that he committed the attack because, in his view, ‘Jews are the children of Satan.’ It was more than reasonable for the jury to consider this direct and uncontroverted evidence and to take the defendant at his word — he killed and shot at every worshipper because of their religious beliefs.”

Prosecutors urged the court to deny the defendant’s motion in its entirety. 

The defendant killed Joyce Fienberg, Richard Gottfried, Rose Mallinger, Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, Cecil Rosenthal, David Rosenthal, Bernice Simon, Sylvan Simon, Dan Stein, Melvin Wax and Irving Younger. They were members of the Tree of Life * Or L’Simcha, Dor Hadash and New Light congregations.

Toby Tabachnick

Toby is editor of the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle. She can be reached at ttabachnick@pittsburghjewishchronicle.org.

Toby Tabachnick

Toby is editor of the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle. She can be reached at ttabachnick@pittsburghjewishchronicle.org.