The four Indian men who raped and murdered a 23-year-old trainee physiotherapist last year could face the death penalty. Following their conviction on Tuesday, the prosecution argued that the defendants’ unpardonable actions constituted grounds for execution, and that a sentencing would establish a valuable precedent. The punishment, they said, would remind the nation that such crimes cannot be tolerated.

The incredibly brutal incident made headlines in December 2012, when local media reported that several men had “gang raped” a young woman in the back of a hijacked bus after beating her male friend unconscious. Using iron rods, wrenches, and their bare hands, the men caused severe damage to her intestines and genitals, partially removing her organs from her body. After two weeks of intensive care, the woman died from her injuries.

Four of the men were later identified as Akshay Kumar Singh, Vinay Sharma, Pawan Gupta, and Mukesh Singh. According to Reuters, they all maintain their innocence.

"The sentence which is appropriate is nothing short of death,” special public prosecutor Dayan Krishnan told the court. "The common man will lose faith in the judiciary if the harshest punishment is not given. There is no element of sympathy in the way in which the hapless woman was tortured.”

Defense attorney Vivek Sherma responded by cautioning against discretionary capital punishment. Pleading leniency for his 19-year-old client, he reminded the prosecution of the disjointed timeline, fuzzy details, and lack of clear intent. Judges, he said, should not be “bloodthirsty.”

"Whether all of them were responsible or some of them were merely present by chance and it all happened on the spur of the moment," he said. "You can't give capital punishment on demand."

Although their names have been withheld, two other men have been implicated in the 2012 gang rape. One of the anonymous defendants was found dead in his jail cell earlier this year. The other defendant, who was 17 at the time of the crime, was tried as a minor and sentenced to the maximum punishment of three years in a juvenile detention center.