In the first phase of the trial, Mr. Bowers’ defense team presented no witnesses, and never disputed the essential facts of the attack: that on October 27, 2018, he drove to a synagogue where three congregations were meeting for services — Tree of Life, New Light and Dor Hadash — and walked through the building shooting fans.
The victims killed were Joyce Fienberg, 75; Richard Gottfried, 65; Rose Mallinger, 97; Daniel Stein, 71; Melvin Wax, 87; Irving Younger, 69; Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, 66; the couple Bernice, 84, and Sylvan Simon, 86; and brothers Cecil, 59, and David Rosenthal, 54.
Six more people were injured, including four police officers.
Mr. Bowers was found guilty of 63 charges, including hate crimes that carry a maximum penalty of death. The central question facing jurors over the past two and a half weeks was whether Mr Bowers intended to kill his victims – one of the factors required for a death sentence. Mr. Bowers’ lawyers called a series of experts in psychology and neurology to testify, to make a case that severe mental illness made him incapable of forming a conscious intent to kill.
“The problem in this case is, what happens when your brain is broken?” said Michael Burt, defense attorney, in his closing argument. “What happens when you don’t have the ability to know what is true and what is not true?”
Experts for each side who testified in the trial, who saw the defendant in very different ways.
Defense witnesses who examined Mr. Bowers said he had schizophrenia and other serious mental disorders. They testified that he had signs of “permanent brain damage,” that he suffered from paranoia and delusions, and that his claim that he was a savior of the white race was so divorced from reality that it showed him to be “obviously psychotic.”