PITTSBURGH (AP) — Jurors considering the death sentence for Pittsburgh synagogue killer Robert Bowers heard mixed testimony Tuesday from doctors about whether medical tests showed significant brain damage. But it was a central issue in his lawyer’s strategy to save his life.
The testimony is part of the penalties phase of the case against Mr. Bowers, who was convicted earlier this month of killing 11 worshipers at three congregations in the 2018 mass shooting that became the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history. It was done on the second day.
The testimony was divided into two parts, the first of which included the findings of three local doctors who unknowingly reviewed the results of various brain scans of Mr. Bowers for seizures and other problems. Although there are signs that may be, it turned out to be almost normal. .
However, two expert witnesses for the defense took different views on the test results, saying Bowers had a serious brain injury that may be correlated with schizophrenia and an inability to manage emotions, stress and conflict. said to have been shown to have the potential to damage
Dr. Murray Arthur Solomon, a California doctor who testified remotely, said an MRI showed multiple lesions in the white matter of Bowers’ brain, more than would be expected for a man of his age. These could be related to reasoning and decision-making problems, he said. “When you see multiple lesions, it’s a red flag,” Solomon testified as a radiology expert.
Sentencing is expected to take four to five weeks. Prosecutors said the case would qualify for the death penalty by first proving Bowers had intent to attack, before a jury would consider multiple factors as to whether it would actually impose the death penalty. I need to prove it.
Prosecutors say Bowers lashed out at Jews online and attacked the Tree of Life Synagogue in the Lith Hill neighborhood, the center of Pittsburgh’s Jewish community, on October 27, 2018. It also claims that there is extensive evidence of intent at the site of the attack. Bowers, a 50-year-old truck driver outside Baldwin, killed 11 members of the Do Hadash, New Right and Tree of Life congregations who shared a building.
However, the defense alleges that he suffered from epilepsy and schizophrenia, and that Bowers’ ability to make decisions was compromised by his mental illness.
Three doctors at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center testified Tuesday that they had separately analyzed brain imaging tests performed on Bowers in 2021 and 2022. No one knew at the time that the patient was Bowers, but he pointed out that he had performed hundreds and thousands of tests. such test results.
Dr. Vijayalakshmi Rajasekaran, an assistant professor of neurology at the University of Pittsburgh, testified that electroencephalography, which measured brain activity over a two-day period, showed some abnormalities in Bowers’ electroencephalogram, indicating an underlying tendency toward seizures. . But the test does not record actual seizures and cannot accurately predict whether a patient has had or will have one, she said.
Dr. Joseph Mettenberg, an associate professor of radiology at Pitt University who examined Bowers’ MRI scan, said he found “white matter hyperintense,” an abnormality seen in migraine headaches and similar problems related to blood flow. testified. But overall, he said, the results showed the brain was normal.
Dr. James Michael Mountz, a professor of radiology at Pitt University, said Bowers’ PET scan showed no signs of epilepsy.
However, Dr. Andrew Newberg of Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, who is an expert in nuclear medicine and brain imaging, testified on behalf of the defense that PET scans showed that many areas of Bowers’ brain were beyond normal. It testified that it was shown to be either overactive or underactive. And the left side of his brain was much more active than the right side.
“This suggests a significant imbalance in the brain,” he said, adding that the part of the brain that manages stress, emotions and perceived threat is malfunctioning. “The ability to process thoughts and emotions as effectively as you would have if you had a balanced brain,” Newberg said.
He said schizophrenia is associated with abnormal asymmetries in the brain, but admitted on cross-examination that there was no way to directly scan for schizophrenia.
U.S. prosecutor Eric Orshan asked Newberg whether the person whose brain generated the image in question had the ability to kill.
“I don’t think you can really answer based on the PET scan,” Newberg admitted.
The Associated Press religious coverage is supported through a partnership between the AP and The Conversation US with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. AP is solely responsible for this content.
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