Sentencing / Post-Conviction

Jury sentences Dylann Roof to death for Charleston church massacre

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Dylann Roof

Dylann Roof. Photo from the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office.

A South Carolina jury sentenced mass shooter Dylann Roof to death late Tuesday, the Post and Courier reported.

Roof, 22, killed nine people at a Bible study meeting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in June of 2015. Shortly after he was taken into custody, he confessed to law enforcement and said he committed the murders to start a race war, CNN reported at the time. All of the victims were African-American; Roof is white. A manifesto he posted on his personal website expressed nakedly racist views, and law enforcement reported that he continued his racist writings from prison.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson argued in court Tuesday that Roof coldly and carefully planned the killings, visiting Charleston several times, stockpiling ammunition and deliberately bringing exactly 88 bullets, a white supremacist convention that invokes H, the eighth letter of the alphabet, as a way to say “Heil Hitler.”

Roof, who represented himself despite the advice of U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel, said in his closing arguments that he doesn’t hate black people; rather, he said, he hates what they do. He also said he felt he had to commit the murders, and still feels that way.

He told the jury that he’d been told he has a right to ask for a life sentence rather than death, but “I’m not sure what good that will do anyway.”

After the verdict, Roof asked Gergel for new lawyers to file a request for a new trial. A standby team of defense lawyers for Roof had been in attendance throughout the trial despite Roof’s insistence on representing himself. Those attorneys had attempted to introduce evidence suggesting Roof was mentally ill; Roof’s opening statement was largely an attempt to convince jurors he’s not mentally ill, the Post and Courier said.

Gergel said he’d be “strongly disinclined” to replace that team, but would be willing to listen to motions Wednesday.

Roof killed Emanuel AME Pastor Clementa Pinckney, 41, who was also a state senator; Cynthia Hurd, 54; Susie Jackson, 87; Ethel Lance, 70; DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49; Tywanza Sanders, 26; Daniel Simmons Sr., 74; Sharonda Coleman Singleton, 45; and Myra Thompson, 59. Several other people survived the shooting, including a grandmother and granddaughter who survived by playing dead and a woman who Roof said he would allow to live so she could tell the story.

Families of the victims packed the courtroom Tuesday, the Post and Courier reported, but Roof’s family was not present.

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