Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh
Tree of Life Synagogue in PittsburghReuters

A federal judge on Wednesday rejected a request by lawyers for the Pittsburgh synagogue gunman to exhume the body of the defendant’s father to prove paternity, The Associated Press reports.

Lawyers for the shooter, Robert Bowers, wanted the body disinterred for a DNA test after prosecutors raised questions about paternity during Bowers’ trial for the 2018 massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue.

Bowers was convicted last month on 63 counts in connection with the October 27, 2018 massacre. Later, a federal jury announced that he is eligible to receive the death penalty.

Trying to persuade jurors to spare his life, the defense said Bowers has a family history of mental illness and has introduced evidence that his father, Randall Bowers, was diagnosed with schizophrenia. The defense asserts that Robert Bowers also has schizophrenia and opened fire at the synagogue out of a delusional belief that Jews were helping to commit a genocide against white people.

Randall Bowers died by suicide in 1979. At trial last week, prosecutors sought to cast doubt on whether he was Robert Bowers’ biological father. The defense asked the judge on Tuesday to clear up the matter by ordering the exhumation of Randall Bowers’ body.

However, US District Judge Robert Colville agreed with prosecutors that the defense waited too long to make its motion for exhumation, noting Bowers’ own mother questioned whether Randall Bowers was the biological father when a defense expert spoke to her in November 2022.

The defense should have anticipated that federal prosecutors would seek to rebut paternity, Colville said in the ruling, as quoted by AP. The judge also said he probably lacks legal authority to order a disinterment.

Lawyers for Bowers had argued previously that the gunman had psychotic, delusional and paranoid symptoms that made him unable to understand the world or make appropriate decisions.