THE PEOPLE V. BOWERS

November 03, 2018 at 4:30 am

Last night a synagogue in Brooklyn was desecrated prior to a get-out-the-vote event, leaving the Prospect Heights neighborhood and the city on edge. We have the latest. And Robert Bowers stands accused of the worst hate crime ever committed against the Jewish community in the history of the United States. We’re breaking down the case.

Aired on November 2, 2018. 

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GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO
METROFOCUS
I'M RAFAEL PI ROMAN.
ANTI-SEMITISM HIT CLOSE TO HOME
ON THURSDAY WHEN A POLITICAL
EVENT AT THE UNION TEMPLE
SYNAGOGUE IN PROSPECT HEIGHTS
BROOKLYN WAS CANCELED AFTER
GRAFFITI WAS DISCOVERED IN THE
BUILDING STAIRWELL THAT READ,
KILL ALL THE JEWS.
IT HAPPENED LESS THAN A WEEK
AFTER PEOPLE WERE SHOT AND
KILLED AFTER WORSHIPPING AT THE
SYNAGOGUE IN PITTSBURGH.
ROBERT BOWERS PLED NOT GUILTY TO
THE CHARGES THAT COULD LAND HIM
ON DEATH ROW.
A GRAND JURY ISSUED A 44-COUNT
INDICTMENT CHARGING BOWERS WITH
MURDER, HATE CRIMES, AND OTHER
CRIMES.
PROSECUTORS ARE PUSHING FOR THE
DEATH PENALTY, WHO EXPRESSED
HATRED OF JEWS BEFORE AND AFTER
THE ATTACK.
TO BREAK IT ALL DOWN FOR US,
IT'S JACK FORD.
>> GOOD TO HAVE YOU IN THAT
SEAT.
>> JACK, FIRST OF ALL, WHY IS
THIS A FEDERAL CASE AND NOT A
STATE CASE?
>> THAT'S A GOOD QUESTION.
COULD BE A PENNSYLVANIA STATE
COURT CASE.
COULD BE A MURDER CASE IN
PENNSYLVANIA WITH ALL OF THE
COUNTS THERE.
THE REASON NOW WHY PROSECUTORS
DECIDED TO MAKE IT A FEDERAL
CASE IS PENNSYLVANIA RIGHT NOW
IS OPERATING WITH A MORATORIUM
ON DEATH PENALTY CASES.
IT'S ONE OF THE STATES THAT DOES
HAVE THE DEATH PENALTY.
THEY HAVE EXECUTED A SMALL
HANDFUL OVER THE YEARS.
THE GOVERNOR RECENTLY SAID, WE
HAVE TO TAKE A LOOK AT THIS
WHOLE NOTION OF A DEATH PENALTY
HERE IN PENNSYLVANIA.
IF WE ARE NOT UTILIZING IT, IT
COSTS SO MUCH MONEY.
WE PUT A MORATORIUM ON IT.
PROSECUTORS SAY THERE IS A DEATH
PENALTY CIRCUMSTANCES, AS YOU
MENTIONED, IF YOU KILL SOMEBODY
IN THE MIDST OF PURSUING THEIR
RELIGIOUS BELIEFS, SO THE
DECISION WAS MADE TO MAKE IT A
FEDERAL MURDER CASE.
THAT WOULD BE THE ATTORNEY
GENERAL AND DISTRICT ATTORNEY IN
PENNSYLVANIA SAYING, HERE'S HOW
WE ARE GOING HANDLE IT.
IT'S GOING TO PROCEED AS A
FEDERAL CASE.
>> HE PLEAD NOT GUILTY, BUT HE
WAS CAUGHT AFTER A FIRE FIGHT
WITH COPS.
AS I SAID IN THE DESTRUCTION, HE
KEPT SCREAMING, THE JEWS MUST
DIE WHILE HE WAS ATTACKING AND
THEN AFTERWARD.
HOW DOES HE PLEAD NOT GUILTY?
>> THE REASON FOR THAT IS THIS
IS A FIRST PROCEDURAL.
STEP.
IT'S NOT OF ANY SUBSTANCE.
HE JUST GOT LAWYERS.
THIS IS BASICALLY AN
ARRAIGNMENT.
THE PURPOSE IS TO GET HIM IN
COURT, SAY, YOU ARE INDICTED.
HERE ARE THE CHARGES AGAINST
YOU.
YOU HAVE TO BE NOTIFIED OF THEM.
EVEN IF YOU DON'T ENTER A
PLEA -- SOMETIMES DEFENDANTS
WON'T SAY ANYTHING.
THE COURT OR LAWYER WILL ENTER A
PLEA FOR THEM ANY WAYS.
IT'S JUST THE FIRST STEP IN A
LONG AND COMPLICATED PROCESS.
>> WHAT COULD BE --
>> CAUGHT IN A FIRE FIGHT.
CLEARLY THERE WITH WEAPONS.
THERE'S GOING TO BE LITTLE
DIFFICULTY FOR PROSECUTORS TO
PROVE HE WAS THE GUNMAN HERE.
IF YOU'RE HIS DISTRICT ATTORNEY,
THE QUESTION, IS HOW CAN I
DEFEND THIS?
ESPECIALLY LOOKING AT A DEATH
PENALTY.
I SUSPECT YOU'RE GOVERNING TO
FIX ON HIS MENTAL STATE, MENTAL
CONDITION.
THAT BRINGS YOU TO WHAT YOU
REFER TO AS AN INSANITY DEFENSE.
I THINK PEOPLE DON'T REALIZE
IT'S A COMPLICATED PROCESS.
IT'S NOT EASY TO SAY, MY CLIENT
SUFFERS FROM A MENTAL PROBLEM.
ANYBODY WHO COULD TAKE ANYBODY'S
LIFE MUST HAVE SOME SORT OF
MENTAL ISSUE.
BUT FOR AN INSANITY PROCESS, YOU
HAVE TO PROVE MORE THAN THAT.
MENTAL ILLNESS OR DISEASE,
THAT'S YOUR STARTING POINT.
IT'S THAT THAT MENTAL ILLNESS OR
DISEASE PREVENTS SOMEONE FROM
UNDERSTANDING THE CONSEQUENCE OF
WHAT'S HAPPENING.
THAT'S YOU THINK YOU'RE HOLDING
A BANANA.
YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT'S GOING TO
HAPPEN YOU TAKE SOMEBODY'S LIFE.
THAT'S ONE PROBLEM.
THE OTHER IS, YOU UNDERSTAND
WHAT YOU'RE DOING.
YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND IT'S WRONG.
INSTANCES WHERE PARENTS HAVE
TAKEN THE LIVES OF THEIR
CHILDREN.
THEY TOOK THE LIVES OF THEIR
CHILDREN, BUT THEY BELIEVED GOD
TOLD THEM TO.
THE DEFENDANT KNEW WHAT THEY
WERE DOING BUT DIDN'T BELIEVE IT
WAS WRONG OR WHATEVER THE
CIRCUMSTANCES MIGHT BE.
>> HOW DOES A LAWYER GO AROUND
PROVING ANY OF THAT?
>> IT'S ALWAYS HARD.
YOU HEAR TALK ABOUT AN INSANITY
DEFENSE BEING USED.
RARELY ARE THEY SUCCESSFUL.
AND THE REASON IS THE
NOMENCLATURE IN THE COURT
SYSTEM.
MOST REQUIRE A JURY TO SAY, NOT
GUILTY BY REASON OF INSANITY.
THAT'S COUNTERINTUITIVE BECAUSE
YOU HAVE TO ADMIT THE DEFENDANT
DID IT TO INTRODUCE THE
INSANITY.
I TRIED A NUMBER OF THESE CASES.
THOSE BELIEF ASKING JURORS TO
SAY NOT GUILTY WHEN CLEARLY HE
COMMITTED THE ACT IS HARD.
WHAT IF THIS BECOMES INSANITY?
WHAT HIS LAWYERS ARE GOING TO
HAVE TO DO IS SOMEHOW GET INTO
HIS MIND, LOOK WHAT HE'S DONE IN
HIS PAST.
YOU MENTIONED SOMETHING THEY
WOULD RELY ON.
AFTER THE SHOOTING IN THE
HOSPITAL, HE'S STILL RANTING AND
RAVING.
>> I GUESS THE DOCTORS --
>> THEY'RE TRYING TO SAVE HIS
LIFE.
IF I'M A DISTRICT ATTORNEY, I
WOULD ENLIST THE AID OF A
PSYCHIATRIST AND TELL YOU, WHAT
DOES THAT SAY ABOUT HIM?
DID HE NOT REALIZE WHAT HE WAS
DOING?
THEY'RE HARD CASES TO WIN FROM A
DEFENSE PERSPECTIVE.
B
BECAUSE OF THAT NOTION IT'S NOT
JUST A MENTAL DISEASE OR
ILLNESS.
IT'S SO MUCH MORE.
>> IS THERE ANYTHING HIS LAWYERS
CAN DO BESIDE INSANITY?
>> IT'S HARD BECAUSE THERE'S NO
REAL DOUBT HE WAS THE SHOOTER.
WHAT YOU MIGHT SEE THEM DO AND
GO IN AND SAY, EARLY STAGES, HOW
ABOUT THIS, WE'LL PLEAD GUILTY
TO EVERYTHING, TAKE THE DEATH
PENALTY OFF THE TABLE.
WE HAVE SEEN INSTANCES WHERE THE
FAMILIES OF VICTIMS HAVE SAID,
WE DON'T WANT TO PERSON TO BE
SUBJECTED TO THE DEATH PENALTY.
OUR LOVED ONE WOULD NOT WANT
THAT.
>> THAT HAPPENED IN CHARLESTON.
>> EXACTLY.
IF I'M THE DEFENSE ATTORNEY, MY
FIRST CHORE IS TO KEEP HIM FROM
BEING EXECUTED.
GO IN, SAY, WE'LL SAVE
EVERYBODY.
HAVING TO
GO THROUGH THE TRIAL -- TAKE
THAT PENALTY OFF THE TABLE,
WE'LL PLEAD GUILTY.
THAT'S PROBABLY THE FIRST THING
YOU SEE.
THE GOVERNMENT MIGHT BE IN A
SITUATION WHERE THEY SAY, WE
CAN'T DO THAT.
MULTIPLE MURDERS IN WE CANNOT
TAKE THAT OFF THE TABLE YOU TAKE
YOUR SHOT.
AND WE'LL TAKE OURS.
>> PRESIDENT TRUMP WASTED NO
TIME TO CALL FOR THE DEATH
PENALTY FOR THIS INDIVIDUAL, AND
HE SAID THAT IF THE DEATH
PENALTY WERE FOR WIDELY USED
THAT INCIDENCES LIKE THIS WOULD
HAPPEN LESS.
FROM YOUR EXPERIENCE IS THAT THE
CASE?
>> WHAT RESEARCH HAS TOLD US --
I DEFENDED THE FIRST CASE IN THE
NORTHEAST BACK IN THE 1980s IN
NEW JERSEY.
TRIED A NUMBER SINCE, LECTURED
ON THEM, TALKED ABOUT THEM.
RESEARCH TOLD US IN THE
BEGINNING THE NOTION BEHIND THE
DEATH PENALTY WAS DETERRENCE AND
PUNISHMENT.
RESEARCH HAS SHOWN US PRETTY
DEFINITIVELY THAT THE DEATH
PENALTY DOESN'T NECESSARILY ACT
AS A DETERRENT BECAUSE THEY'RE
USUALLY EMOTIONAL EXPLOSIONS,
LITERALLY AND FIGURATIVELY.
MOST PEOPLE SAY THE CHANCES OF
IT ACTING AS A DETERRENT AREN'T
VERY SIGNIFICANT.
SO WE COME DOWN TO THE ISSUE OF
PUNISHMENT.
WHAT IS THE RIGHT PUNISHMENT WE
AS A SOCIETY ARE GOING ACCEPT
FOR SOMEONE TAKING SOMEONE
ELSE'S LIFE?
IN THIS CASE, TAKING A NUMBER OF
LIVES.
THAT REALLY NOW IS THE DEBATE
ABOUT THE DEATH PENALTY, WHETHER
OR NOT THIS IS A LEGITIMATE
PUNISHMENT.
GENERALLY SPEAKING THERE MIGHT
BE INSTANCES WHERE SOMEBODY
MIGHT SAY, I BETTER NOT DO THIS,
BECAUSE I MIGHT DIE MICE, BUT
MOST OF RESEARCH SUGGESTED IT
DOES NOT ACT AS A DETERRENT.
>> I KNOW THIS IS A LONGS PRO,
BUT WHAT'S YOUR GUESS?
HOW IS THIS GOING END UP?
>> I WOULD EXPECT UNLESS YOU GET
SIGNIFICANT PUSHBACK FROM THE
FAMILIES OF THE VICTIMS, THE
GOVERNMENT IS IN A SITUATION
WHERE THEY HAVE TO SAY, LOOK, WE
HAVE A DEATH PENALTY.
LEGISLATION HAS CREATED IT.
IT'S ESSENTIALLY THE WILL OF THE
PEOPLE THROUGH THEIR
LEGISLATORS.
IF WE ARE NOT GOING TO USE IT IN
A CASE WHERE WE HAVE SO MANY
PEOPLE SLAUGHTERED.
COLD-BLOODED SLAUGHTER -- IF WE
ARE IN THE GOING TO USE THE
DEATH PENALTY NOW, WHY DO WE
HAVE ONE?
GIVEN THAT ARGUMENT, THE
PROSECUTION IS GOING SAY, WE ARE
GOING PROCEED WITH THIS AS A
DEATH PENALTY CASE ABSENT OBJECT
FROM THE VICTIMS' FAMILIES.
THIS IS GOING GET TRIED OUT.
THE ONLY DEAL WE'LL OFFER YOU IS
DEATH.
THE DEFENSE ATTORNEY SAYS, WE
GOT NOTHING TO LOSE.
LET'S TRY AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS.
>> THANKS SO MUCH.
>> ALL RIGHT.

Mutual of America PSEG

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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