Jury Recommends Death Penalty For Charleston Killer Dylann Roof
A 12-person jury Tuesday recommended Dylann Roof receive the death penalty for the massacre of nine Charleston, S.C., churchgoers on June 17, 2015.
If Judge Richard Gergel follows through on their recommendation when formally issuing his sentence Wednesday morning, Dylann Roof will become the first person to face the death penalty for federal hate crimes.
The jury’s decision followed Roof’s December conviction on 33 charges related to the massacre at Emanuel AME Church, which included firearm crimes, religious obstruction crimes and hate crimes.
An expressionless Dylann Roof listened to the sentence and reportedly smiled out of nervousness occasionally.
In remarks to the jury that lasted around five minutes prior to deliberation, the 22-year-old Roof represented himself in court and did not put on a defense or call witnesses.
Roof, dressed in a green sweater, denied having hatred toward black people, insisted his prejudice is rooted in “what black people do,” and disputed the government’s depiction of him as a man filled with hatred.
“Wouldn’t it be fair to say the prosecution hates me since they’re trying to give me the death penalty?” Roof asked, according to The State newspaper. “My point is, anyone who hates anything in their mind has a good reason for it.”
He spoke softly as he remorselessly told the courtroom that he felt obligated to commit the racially motivated mass shooting.
“I felt like I had to do it, and I still feel like I had to do it,” Roof said.
He avoiding talking about his crime and victims, but conceded his actions were attributed to mental illness.
“I think that it’s safe to say no one in their right mind wants to go in a church and kill people,” Roof said.
He explained that he had been told that he had the right to ask for a life sentence, but said, “I’m not sure what good that would do.”
“Anyone, including the prosecution, that thinks that I’m filled with hate has no idea what real hate is,” Roof said. “They don’t know anything about hate. They don’t know what real hatred looks like. They think they do. But they don’t, really.”
During the closing arguments of lead prosecuting attorney Jay Richardson, which lasted for two hours, he reiterated every detail of how Roof planned the massacre and underlined the damage he caused to the victims’ family members.
“We learned about the defendant’s cold and calculated choices that caused those losses to happen,” Richardson said. “His racist ideology, the acquiring of that ideology, that’s part of his preparation, that’s part of what led him to walk in that door at Mother Emanuel on June 17.”
Roof spent time on racist websites and even created his own to continue spreading “his message of hate, his message of revenge, his message of agitation,” Richardson said. “He spent years acquiring this deep hatred. He ‘had to do it.’ Those are the words of an extraordinary racist.”
Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was the last person sent to federal death row, in 2015.
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