The man who killed 11 people and injured seven more during an attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 2018 has been found guilty of all 63 counts he was facing and could now be sentenced to death.
The shooter’s convictions included 11 counts of obstructing the free exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death and 11 counts of hate crimes resulting in death. The shooting is considered by authorities to be the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history.
“There can be no forgiveness,” said the New Light congregation, one of the congregations that was targeted, in a statement the day before the convictions. “Forgiveness requires two components: that it is offered by the person who commits the wrong and is accepted by the person who was wronged. The shooter has not asked — and the dead cannot accept.”
A criminal complaint showed that the man told authorities that he intentionally targeted the synagogue because he hoped to kill Jewish people. The shooter’s defense attorneys acknowledged that he had done the shooting, but asked jurors to “scrutinize his intent.”
“There will be no question that this was a planned act and that he killed 11 people,” defense attorney Judy Clarke said.
The 50-year-old shooter opened fire on Jewish worshippers holding Sabbath services on October 27, 2018, at the synagogue in east Pittsburgh. The attack wounded several Holocaust survivors.
“The message that the defendant chose to tell the world about himself was clear and unambiguous: He is filled with hatred for Jews,” said federal prosecutor Mary Hahn.
The shooter was armed with a Colt AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, as well as three Glock .357 handguns — and fired all four of the firearms, authorities said. He had hoped to swap a guilty plea for no death penalty, but his offer was turned down.
The jury will determine if the killer will be executed. The attacker’s legal team has said he has schizophrenia, as well as structural and functional brain impairments, claims that could be used by the defense as reasoning against the death penalty.
“How and why did this man, who up until Oct. 27, 2018, had lived a solitary and law-abiding life, wreak the havoc and destruction that he did?” said federal public defender Elisa Long during the trial.
U.S. District Judge Robert Colville oversaw the trial which took place in downtown Pittsburgh.