A Charleston, S.C., federal jury has sentenced Dylann Roof, who was convicted last month in the shooting death of nine members of the Emanuel A.M.E. church to death.
The sentencing comes after several weeks of bizarre court proceedings in which Roof elected to represent himself in court, finally agreeing to allow lawyers to defend him in the guilt phase of the trial, but refusing to let them during the sentencing phase.
Last month the panel of jurors, three Black, nine White found Roof guilty of 33 charges related to the killing.
Evidence presented by prosecutors overwhelmingly showed that Roof had White supremacist sentiments as he plotted to start what he considered a war against Blacks. Possibly the most damning was a four-page “manifesto” written on his website where he spelled out his violent intent.
“I have no choice,” the diatribe read. “I am not in the position to, alone, go into the ghetto and fight. I chose Charleston because it is the most historic city in my state, and at one time had the highest ratio of blacks to Whites in the country…Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me.” (Read the entire document here.)
Jurors deliberated about three hours before coming back with their unanimous decision that Roof should die rather than being given life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. The trial’s presiding judge, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel has scheduled the formal sentencing hearing for Wednesday at 9:30 a.m.
Roof reportedly showed no emotion as the jury’s decision was read.
Heading toward the closing of the trial, Roof had earlier fumed that he was being misunderstood and that prosecutors don’t know what hatred really means.
“Anyone, including the prosecution, who thinks I am filled with hate has no idea what real hate is,” Roof said during his closing argument on Tuesday, while addressing the court from a podium. “They don’t know anything about hate.
“They don’t know what real real hatred looks like, they think they do, but they don’t really,” said Roof.
The 22-year-old White supremacist is facing the death penalty in the June 2015 massacre at Emanuel A.M.E., and is representing himself in the sentencing phase of his trial. The Charleston Post and Courier reported that he gave a convoluted statement to jurors saying he doesn’t hate Black people, just what they do.
“I think it’s safe to say that someone in their right mind wouldn’t go into a church and kill people,” he said. “You might remember in my confession to the FBI I told them I had to do it. Obviously, that isn’t true because I didn’t have to do it. I didn’t have to do anything. But what I meant when I said that was I felt like I had to do that.”
As loved ones of Roof’s victims, who had filled the courtroom listened in, Roof continued, saying that those who hate him have been “misled.”
“Wouldn’t it be fair to say that the prosecution hates me since they are the ones trying to give me the death penalty?” he asked. “You could say, ‘Of course they hate you. Everyone hates you. They have good reason to hate you.’ I’m not denying that. My point is that anyone who hates anything, in their mind, has a good reason.”
He also reiterated that he had the right to ask the jury for a life sentence, but said “I’m not sure what good that will do, anyway.”
Prosecutors, who are aiming to wrap up the sentencing phase of the trial this week, launched detailed closing arguments that outlined what they say were Roof’s malicious intent to kill on the basis of racial hatred. U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson gave a two-hour closing statement saying that Roof wanted to spark a race war with his actions, noting that the killings are “precisely why this case justifies the death penalty.”
Richardson outlined the criteria for such a punishment to the jury including how Roof had planned to kill his victims, how he targeted vulnerable people, and killed them en masse. “It outweighs anything else you might consider on the other side.”
Roof’s state trial, which was slated to begin this month but was postponed because of the federal trial, must still take place. That means a new judge, jury and set of defense attorneys prosecutors will convene during new proceedings. Roof may also face the death penalty in that trial as well.