Friday 21 July 2017

White Supremacist Dylann Roof sentenced to death for Charleston massacre

Dylann Roof (AP)
Dylann Roof (AP)
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Dylann Roof has been sentenced to death for killing nine black church members, becoming the first American to get the death penalty for federal hate crimes.

In his six-minute closing argument, the 22-year-old white supremacist showed no remorse for the massacre. While attempting to persuade the jury to spare his life, he claimed that he did not kill the victims out of a hatred for black people.

"I think it's safe to say nobody in their mind wants to go into a church and kill people," he told the jury. "In my [FBI confession] tape I told them I had to. But it's not true: I didn't have to. No one made me. What I meant was: I felt like I had to do it. I still feel like I have to do it."

Jurors deliberated for less than three hours. Roof showed no emotion as the verdict was read, Charleston's Post and Courier newspaper reported.

"Justice is served in Charleston," Malcolm Graham, shooting victim Cynthia Hurd's younger brother, said in a post on Twitter following the verdict. "There's no place in a civilized society for hatred, racism or discrimination."

Roof, who represented himself for the penalty phase, was unrepentant during his closing argument earlier in the day. He told jurors he still felt the massacre was something he had to do and did not ask that his life be spared.

A U.S. prosecutor argued that Roof deserved to die because the shooting was calculated and intended to incite racial violence.

On June 17, 2015, Roof sat for 40 minutes with parishioners gathered for a Bible study meeting before opening fire as they closed their eyes to pray, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson said.

Roof pulled the trigger 75 times as he methodically killed Hurd (54), Clementa Pinckney (41) the church's pastor and a state senator; DePayne Middleton Doctor (49), Sharonda Coleman Singleton (45) Susie Jackson (87), Ethel Lance (70), Myra Thompson (59) Daniel Simmons Sr. (74), and Tywanza Sanders (26).

Whether Roof was competent to serve as his own attorney will be a fundamental issue in the appeals process, said Robert Dunham, executive director of the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center said in a telephone interview.

Roof did not want jurors to hear mental health evidence and put up no defense against the death penalty. Defense lawyers likely will use the trial to show appellate judges that mental illness prevented him from adequately representing himself, Dunham said.

"Today's sentencing decision means that this case will not be over for a very long time," Roof's lawyers, who represented him for the guilt phase, said in a statement.

"We are sorry that, despite our best efforts, the legal proceedings have shed so little light on the reasons for this tragedy," said the lawyers, who objected to Roof's self-representation.

Roof also still faces a trial on murder charges in state court, where prosecutors also are seeking the death penalty.

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