Bowers’ defense team to provide evidence of schizophrenia, epilepsy at trail
The defense team for the alleged Tree of Life Synagogue shooter intends to provide evidence of schizophrenia and epilepsy at his April trial, according to court documents.
Robert Bowers, 50, is facing more than 60 federal charges in connection with the Oct. 27, 2018, shooting. In the attack, 11 worshipers were killed and 27 more, including 12 law enforcement officers, were injured at the synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Bowers is being held without bond in Butler County Prison.
Attorneys for Bowers filed notice Feb. 23 of his intent to give testimony regarding his mental health during trial, to which federal prosecutors responded with a request for an evaluation. The U.S. Attorney’s Office also requested the defense provide an expert testimony to Bowers’ mental state during the penalty phase of the trial.
In a 27-page document filed Monday, March 20, Bowers’ attorneys said an evaluation had already been conducted and opposed the government’s request to what the defense considers “unfettered access” to Bowers in a test of the defense’s case.
“The prosecution’s motion for expansive, unlimited access...infringes upon Bowers’ constitutional rights,” Bowers’ attorneys wrote. “The defense has given explicit notice that it intends to present expert evidence that Bowers suffers from schizophrenia, epilepsy and structural and functional impairments of his brains, findings supported by neuropsychological testing and various brain imaging techniques.”
Additionally, attorneys noted their request for the prosecution to withdraw the death penalty was denied.
The defense then asked that any rebuttal examination is done within certain parameters. Those requests included listing qualifications of the experts involved in the rebuttal, advance notice of the scope of the questions, that a defense team member can be present for the evaluation and that evaluations take place in the Butler County Prison.
“The narrow rebuttal examination is not an opportunity for the government to re-do the defense investigation: it is a right to rebuttal alone — to test the strength and validity of the defense case,” attorneys wrote. “The Government may rebut the defendant’s mental health status defense, not prosecute based on the defendant’s mental health.”
The defense further requested that any rebuttal examination should not occur unless the jury returns a guilty verdict on a capital charge.
Jury selection for Bowers’ case is expected to begin April 24 in U.S. District Court. The trial is expected to take several weeks for both sides to present evidence to the jury. A jury will then determine if Bowers is guilty or not guilty.
The two-part penalty phase would begin one week later, should Bowers be found guilty. The first part of the penalty phase, the eligibility phase, would involve consideration of what is required for the death penalty and whether the government has met its burden.
The second phase, the sentence selection phase, “will involve the determination of and weighing of all established aggravating and mitigating factors,” according to documents.