Lawyers for Pittsburgh synagogue shooter say he has schizophrenia, brain impairments
AP – A former truck driver on trial for a shooting massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue more than four years ago has schizophrenia and structural and functional brain impairments, his lawyers argued in a public court filing this week.
Robert Bowers’ lawyers told a federal judge they were concerned that the prosecution’s proposal to examine or evaluate his own psychiatric experts would be a “wide-ranging, invasive and constitutionally problematic investigation” of his “life, mind and body.”
The defense said prosecutors should be limited to seeking evidence that would dispute defense assertions and argued they should not be allowed to probe every aspect of her mental health. A message was left seeking further comment with defense attorneys, and the US attorney’s office in Pittsburgh declined to comment.
Jury selection is scheduled to begin next month in Bowers’ trial for shooting to death 11 people and wounding seven others at the Tree of Life synagogue in the nation’s deadliest attack on a Jew. Bowers offered a guilty plea to a life sentence, but prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
On Monday, they told US District Judge Robert Colville in a footnote that federal prosecutors told them a request to withdraw the death penalty had been denied. “It is unclear whether members of the Justice Department’s Capital Review Committee or the Attorney General made this decision,” Bowers’ lawyers wrote.
They said the judge should narrow the scope of any prosecutorial testing, arguing that Bowers’ own lawyers have put him through “numerous objective testing measures,” and that there is no medical or legal justification for doing them again. They also want any prosecution test delayed “unless Bowers is convicted” of a crime that could carry the death penalty.
The defense wrote prosecutors in February to say they plan to introduce evidence that Bowers has schizophrenia, epilepsy and brain impairment, findings they say support neuropsychological testing and brain imaging.
In the new filing, his lawyers told Colville that prosecutors want him to be examined by a psychiatrist, a neuropsychiatrist and a neurologist over several days.
Bowers, a Baldwin resident, pleaded not guilty. After the attack, he traded gunfire with officers and shot three times before being taken into police custody.
Investigators say he posted on social media a false conspiracy theory that the Holocaust was a hoax and showed contempt for a Jewish non-profit group that helps refugees.