Earlier this month, Bowers was deemed eligible for the death penalty prior to the sentencing phase of his trial. After two days of deliberation, the federal jury unanimously opted to give Bowers death as opposed to a life-in-prison sentence.
The decision against Bowers marked the first federal death sentence imposed under the Biden Administration, CNN reports. (While Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro has pledged not to execute any prisoners during his term in office, that mandate would not apply to Bowers, a federal prisoner.)
Earlier in the week, the prosecution and defense made their case for and against the death penalty. “Eleven people, 11 full lives, 11 people who loved their families, 11 people who loved their friends, 11 people who were loved,” U.S. Attorney Eric Olshan told the jury during the sentencing phase. “Eight-hundred-and-thirteen years of life gone in less time than it took me to give you even the briefest window into how unique these people were. This man murdered every single one of them.”
During the trial itself, Bowers’ defense attorney, Judy Clarke, focused on his “motive and intent” rather than his guilt in committing the crimes, stating, “There is no disagreement, no dispute, and there will be no doubt who shot and killed the 11 congregants,” but argued that he was not motivated by hatred of Jews. Instead, she proposed that Bowers feared that congregants at the Tree of Life were helping immigrants, whom he believed were a threat.
However, during the trial’s opening statements, prosecutor Soo Song said that when Bowers was questioned by police after being apprehended, he blurted out, “All Jews need to die,” “Jews are killing our kids,” “Jews are bringing immigrants and killing our people and committing genocide,” and “Jews are the children of Satan.”