Media Contact

August 2, 2023

PITTSBURGH — Today, the jury deciding the fate of the man found guilty of killing 11 Jewish worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue building imposed the death sentence. 

In response to the verdict, the American Civil Liberties Union and American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania issued the following statements: 

Claire Landau, acting executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania: 

“This crime is one of the most horrific that the city of Pittsburgh has ever experienced. Our hearts are with everyone touched by this terrible act. That the violent attack occurred in a synagogue in a time of rising antisemitism adds to the profound injury and pain experienced in the community. 

“We realize that people of goodwill can have a variety of feelings about capital punishment in this context, especially those who have been personally harmed and traumatized by these events. 

“Nevertheless, we cannot support the death penalty for this or any other case. Capital punishment exists as a system, not a single moment or case. And that system is unjust. That’s why each of the last two gubernatorial administrations in Pennsylvania have implemented a moratorium on executions and why our current governor has called for the repeal of capital punishment. In fact, despite his insistence on pursuing death in this case, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland himself declared a moratorium on federal executions six months into the Biden administration. 

“With this death sentence, this case will go on for years. There will certainly be appeals, bringing that dreadful day back into the public spotlight again and again.  

“The death penalty should be abolished. We’ll be better off as a commonwealth, country, and culture when capital punishment is part of our past and not our present and future.” 

Yasmin Cader, deputy legal director and director of the ACLU’s Trone Center for Justice and Equality: 

“This was a grievous attack on the Jewish community in Pittsburgh and across the nation — and an attack on the ideal that all Americans should be able to gather and practice their faiths in safety.  

“No death sentence can undo the harm that was done that day. More Americans are awakening to the reality that the death penalty is unjust. Death row exonerations, botched and barbarically cruel executions, ubiquitous legal errors, and its undeniably racially discriminatory application have led to rising opposition to the death penalty. 

“To win a verdict of death, the Department of Justice attorneys engaged in a jury selection process that excluded all Black and Latino jurors and seated a nearly all-white jury. The jury did not represent the conscience of the community. 

“President Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland have both recognized the profound errors inherent in the capital punishment system. President Biden promised to end the federal death penalty and Garland has paused federal executions — yet the Biden administration pursued death here. 

“Precisely because the capital punishment system is cruel, racist, and unfair, we must end its practice for good. The Biden administration must keep its campaign promise and formally declare a moratorium on pursuing the federal death penalty.”