Sheldon Kirshner

The Penalty The Neo-Nazi Killer Deserves

Justice has been served at the trial of Robert Bowers, the neo-Nazi maniac who murdered eleven Jews at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 27, 2018.

A few days ago, a federal jury convicted the 50-year old truck driver on 63 criminal counts and recommended that he be executed for having perpetrated the deadliest antisemitic attack in American history.

A judge formally imposed the death penalty on August 3.

This was an open-and-shut case from the very first moment.

Bowers’ lawyers never denied his guilt and focused their efforts on saving his miserable life. They claimed that their client was adversely affected by a traumatic childhood, suffered from an untreated mental illness, was susceptible to online extremist propaganda, and acted on the mistaken belief that Jews were instrumental in causing the so-called “genocide” of white Christians.

The prosecution team presented a far better and cogent argument, saying that he was motivated by a profound hatred of Jews and knew exactly what he was doing when he stormed the shul and proceeded to kill as many people as he could.

This is precisely what happened on that fateful day.

Bowers reloaded at least twice, stepped over the bloodied corpses of his victims to seek out more people to shoot, and surrendered to police only after he ran out of ammunition. After being shot three times by responding officers, he told police that “all these Jews need to die.”

Prior to the attack, he posted, liked or shared a stream of vile antisemitic rhetoric on Gab, a social media platform associated with the white supremacist and neo-Nazi crowd.

Bowers regarded himself as a foot soldier in a race war, took pride in his murderous rampage, wished he had killed more Jews, and expressed no remorse whatsoever.

It is clear that Bowers’ childhood history of neglect and his tenuous mental status had no real bearing on his monstrous decision to kill Jews.

Bowers deserves to die, and no purpose will be served if he is sentenced to life imprisonment instead.

The question now is when he will be executed.

During the presidential race, Joe Biden promised to end capital punishment if he was elected president. Since then, the Justice Department has placed a moratorium on federal executions and has declined to authorize the death penalty in hundreds of cases.

Much to their credit, however, federal prosecutors at Bowers’ trial deviated from that policy. They said that the death penalty would be an appropriate punishment due to the vulnerability of his mainly elderly victims and his hate-based targeting of a religious community.

Nonetheless, Bowers has a right to appeal his sentence. This process could well drag on for years, much to the anguish and anger of the victims’ families and friends.

This legal stratagem should be cut short. Bowers should be allowed to make his appeal, but the authorities should reply in a timely manner. Then the door should be slammed shut on further appeals.

Bowers is a callous and pitiless murderer who has thrown eleven Jewish families into the deepest grief and despair. And he is a monster who managed to send shock waves throughout the Jewish community in the United States, much to the glee of his fellow fascists.

He must pay a heavy price for his horrendous crime, and taxpayers should not be forced to support him till the end of his life.

Bowers’ execution should send an unmistakable message to violent racists that they will meet the same fate should they foolishly follow in his despicable path.


About the Author
Sheldon Kirshner is a journalist in Toronto. He writes at his online journal,