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2 Tree Of Life Survivors Offer Opposing Views About Death Penalty For Suspected Shooter Robert Bowers

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - The moment he heard a noise behind him in the sanctuary of the Tree of Life Synagogue on Oct. 27 is seared in Joe Charny's mind. "I turned around and there at the other end of the building was a man with a gun, pointing it right at me."

Charny saw people die around him that day.

Barry Werber took refuge in a room and watched Melvin Wax get killed right in front of him.

Both men don't know how they survived and their views of a possible death penalty for the shooter are opposing.

Charny says, "His survival is an affront."

Werber says, "If it was carried out immediately, I'm all for it. But it will hang on, and hang on and hang on."

Werber believes each step of the judicial process will prolong the suffering for the families of the victims.

"The problem is, every time they have an appeal, and the trial itself when it comes up, it's going to stir up all of this stuff again," Werber says.

"And the families and the survivors and those of us who went through the trauma are going to go through it all over again."

"I would much prefer he be put away in a deep dark hole and we forget about him."


Charny says allowing the shooter to live out his days in a cell is unacceptable.

"I don't think it's okay," Charny says. "I think there's a price for this."

He believes execution sends a message to those who applaud the Tree of Life attack.

"I think to show some things we are not going to permit, we are not going to accept and this is one of them. Why should we accept it?"

While the loss of eleven lives is enough, Charny says to justify the death penalty, he is also indignant about the shattering of the sanctity of the Tree of Life.

"It's sacred to me and to say 'oh that guy wrecked it and we'll let him live' that is horse manure," Charny says. "That's how I feel about it."

Werber and others appealed to the U.S. Attorney General asking that the prosecution not pursue the death penalty out of concern for the survivors.

Federal prosecutors have given official notice they will seek the death penalty.

History emphasizes Werber's concern. Since 1999, three people have been sentenced to death in Federal Court in Western Pennsylvania. None have been executed.

No trial date has been set.

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