CHARLESTON, SC—The trial of Dylann Roof continued this week for the killing of nine parishioners inside a Charleston, South Carolina church in June 2015. After less than three hours of deliberation on Tuesday, January 10, the jury sentenced Roof to death.
Last month, a jury found Roof guilty on all 33 federal crimes against him. The charges range from hate crimes to firearms charges for the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church shooting and murders.
For the following phase of the trial, the sentencing deliberations, Roof opted to represent himself, against both his lawyers’ protest as well as presiding U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel’s. Roof continue to decline any witnesses be called on his behalf or to testify in order to persuade jurors to not give him the death penalty.
Roof did offer a five-minute closing argument for the penalty phase where he explained what he felt like at the time he opened fire at the church and how he still feels that way now. He said the prosecution and anyone else who hates him are the ones who have been misled and they don’t really understand what hate is. He reminded jurors that it only took one of them to disagree to give him a life sentence. At the end of his argument, Roof had requested that Judge Richard Gergel be the one to decide his sentencing, which was denied.
After both Roof’s and the prosecutor’s closing arguments, jurors were left with the federal prosecutor’s evidence and the testimonies of the church victims’ loved ones to decide rather to sentence Roof to life in prison or death.
The United States Justice Department said that this is the first time a death penalty verdict was rendered in a federal hate crime case. The jury had to come to unanimous decision in order to sentence Roof to death. Roof is scheduled for a state trial in which he may face a second death penalty.
Brother of slain churchgoer Cynthia Hurd, Melvin Graham, said after the sentence was announced, “Today we had justice for my sister.” He referred to Roof’s sentence as a “very hollow victory because my sister’s still gone. I wish that this verdict could have brought her back.”
Graham said that, when it comes to Roof’s case, he supported the death penalty, calling Roof’s crimes “executions,” adding that he took nine lives in a brutal fashion with no remorse.
“It’s a hard thing to know that someone’s going to lose their life,” Graham said of Roof. “But when you look at the totality of what happened, it’s hard to say that this person deserves to live.”
Roof’s family said in a statement:
“We will always love Dylann. We will struggle as long as we live to understand why he committed this horrible attack, which caused so much pain to so many good people. We wish to express the grief we feel for the victims of his crimes, and our sympathy to the many families he has hurt. We continue to pray for the Emanuel AME families and the Charleston community.”
“This trial has produced no winners, only losers,” said Judge Richard Gergel.
Gergel rejected Roof’s request for a new trial after Roof explained he didn’t trust his defense lawyers. However, Roof can file post-trial appeals.