Lawyers fight death penalty for Pittsburgh synagogue shooter
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Lawyers fight death penalty for Pittsburgh synagogue shooter

Attorneys for Robert Bowers argue capital punishment for murder of 11 people at Tree of Life would be unconstitutional

A young boy looks at the fenced off entrance to the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 27, 2019, the first anniversary of the shooting at the synagogue, that killed 11 worshipers. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
A young boy looks at the fenced off entrance to the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 27, 2019, the first anniversary of the shooting at the synagogue, that killed 11 worshipers. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Lawyers for the suspect in the synagogue shooting that killed 11 people in Pittsburgh have challenged his potential death sentence as unconstitutional.

Lawyers for Robert Bowers argued in court papers filed this week that capital punishment violates the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause and the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

They also said the practice of carrying out federal executions in state prisons violates a Tenth Amendment protection that says states can’t be made to enforce federal laws, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported Friday.

Defense lawyer Judy Clarke has made similar arguments in other high-profile capital cases. Her clients have included Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tasarnaev, who is appealing his 2015 death sentence, and “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski, who entered a plea agreement that spared him the death penalty.

In court filings, Clarke said that she has tried to negotiate a life sentence for Bowers but that prosecutors have rebuffed her.

Driver’s license photo of Pittsburgh synagogue massacre suspect Robert Bowers (Pennsylvania DOT)

Bowers is charged with killing 11 congregants during a Shabbat service at the Tree of Life synagogue on October 27, 2018, and injuring six others, including four police officers.

He has pleaded not guilty to 63 federal counts, 22 of which carry the death penalty. His defense team also includes public defenders Michael Novara and Elisa Long.

No trial date has been set.

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