Civil Rights

US to seek death penalty in hate-crimes case against accused Charleston church shooter, Dylann Roof

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Dylann Roof

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

Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced Tuesday that the United States will seek the death penalty in its hate-crimes case against Dylann Roof, the 22-year-old white man accused of gunning down nine people in a Bible study group at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, last year.

Roof faces 33 federal charges. He is accused of targeting the church’s pastor and parishioners for death because of their race and of interfering with their right to freely practice their religion, according to the Post and Courier.

Factors weighing in favor of seeking the ultimate penalty, if Roof is convicted, include but are not limited to extensive premeditation, targeting individuals over 70 years old, the race-based nature of the crimes and his lack of remorse, said assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson in an apparent court filing on Tuesday.

“The families will support this decision,” attorney Steve Schmutz, who represents families of several victims, told the newspaper. “Really, I think the families have mixed emotions about the death penalty. But if it’s ever going to be given, this case certainly calls for it.”

Roof also faces a separate state court murder case in which the death penalty is being sought, the newspaper notes.

A trial is scheduled in January in the state court murder case but no trial date has yet been set in the federal hate crimes case.

Related coverage: “Church-slayings suspect Dylann Roof wants to plead guilty in federal hate-crime case, lawyer says”

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