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TE death penalty forum to probe shul shooting

On Oct. 27, 2018, a gunman killed 10 congregants and injured six more at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. The gunman himself was shot but survived. On Aug. 26, 2019, the U.S. Attorney in Pittsburgh announced that federal prosecutors would be seeking the death penalty in the case.

Temple Emanu-El will hold a free public forum on Wednesday, Dec. 4 from 7-9 p.m., to explore the proposed death penalty in the case of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting and to consider the death penalty from Jewish, legal, and philosophical perspectives.

The “Forum on the Death Penalty and Judaism: The Tree of Life Synagogue Shootings and Beyond” will include five expert panelists to lead a discussion of the issues. The panel includes Rabbi Batsheva Appel of Temple Emanu-El; Rick Unklesbay, a veteran Pima County prosecutor and author of “Arbitrary Death: A Prosecutor’s Perspective on the Death Penalty”; Amy Krauss, a criminal defense attorney and specialist in capital case appeals; Dan Cooper, a criminal defense attorney and veteran of capital case trials; and Michael Gill, a professor of philosophy at University of Arizona.

Jewish communities in America, and leaders and members of those communities, hold a range of beliefs about capital punishment, and the Pittsburgh synagogue shootings have put some of those beliefs to the test. Two of the leading Jewish movements are generally opposed to capital punishment. Two of the three congregations that shared the Tree of Life building have registered their opposition to seeking the death penalty in this case. The surviving spouse of a victim also has asked that the death penalty not be sought.

Advance registration for the forum is recommended but not required. Call Temple Emanu-El at 327-4501, or visit