CHARLESTON, S.C. (UPI) — Dylann S. Roof, a white supremacist who openly admitted to killing nine people at a historic black church in South Carolina a year and-a-half ago, was sentenced to death by jurors Tuesday.
The jury handed down the capital punishment Tuesday afternoon after deliberating for only three hours. The sentence followed Roof’s conviction last month on nearly three dozen hate crimes charges.
The punishment won’t be official until Judge Richard Gergel imposes it at a formal hearing Wednesday — which will merely be a formality, though, since Gergel is bound by law to follow the jury’s decision.
The jurors’ verdict came a few hours after Roof expressed absolutely no remorse for his crimes to the court and jury.
In his closing statement Tuesday, Roof said the taped confession he provided to the FBI misinterpreted his intentions — and that he carried out the rampage because he felt like he had to.
Roof, 22, a self-proclaimed white supremacist, undertook the shootings because he believed it would help spark a race war in the United States — a battle the convicted killer expected to be won by whites.
Nine people died in the June 2015 attack at Charleston’s historic Emanuel AME Church, but jurors were told during the trial that Roof apparently scouted other potential church targets in the city.
“I think it’s safe to say nobody in their mind wants to go into a church and kill people,” Roof, acting as his own attorney, also said Tuesday. “I felt like I had to do it. I still feel like I have to do it.”
His remarks in open court marked the first time Roof himself was really heard by the U.S. public. He has largely been silent in court since the attack and his arrest nearly 19 months ago.
Roof on Tuesday said he was not sure if seeking a life sentence instead of a death sentence would have a “good” effect.
“Anyone, including the prosecution, who thinks I’m filled with hatred has no idea what hate is. They don’t know anything about hate,” he said. “From what I’ve been told, I have a right to ask to give me a life sentence. But I’m not sure what good that would do anyway.
“Anyone who hates anything in their mind has a good reason to hate.”
“He was unrepentant,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson said. “He understood the consequences that would be coming.”
South Carolina state Sen. Clementa Pickney, 41, who was also a pastor at the church; Cynthia Hurd, 54; Tywanza Sanders, 26; Myra Thompson, 59; Ethel Lance, 70; Susie Jackson, 87; DePayne Middleton Doctor, 49; Sharonda Singleton, 45; and Daniel Simmons Sr., 74, died in the attack.
Last week, Roof told jurors there was nothing wrong with him psychologically — and at one point became frustrated with the number of relatives and friends giving impact statements in court. He argued to Gergel that it gave prosecutors an unfair advantage.
Though he will be put to death, Roof still faces another trial for the killings — a state prosecution for murder that was scheduled to begin this month. It was not immediately clear after Tuesday’s verdict, though, whether South Carolina prosecutors will go ahead with that trial.
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