Sunday 25 September 2016

White supremacist Dylann Roof enters not guilty plea for Charleston massacre

Published 31/07/2015 | 17:19

Dylann Roof appears via video before a judge in Charleston, South Carolina
Dylann Roof appears via video before a judge in Charleston, South Carolina

A federal judge has entered a plea of 'Not Guilty' on behalf of a white man accused of gunning down nine parishioners at a black church in Charleston.

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An attorney for Dylann Roof (21), who is facing 33 ferderal charges including hate crimes, told US Magistrate Judge Bristow Marchant that his client wanted to enter a plea of guilty to all the counts.

But the lawyer said that because the government had not decided whether to seek the death penalty on some of the counts, he could not advise Roof on the issue.

Judge Marchant insisted entered a 'Not Guilty' plea on all counts.

Read More: Trial date set for Charleston church killings accused

Police lead Dylann Roof (21) into the courthouse in Shelby, North Carolina
Police lead Dylann Roof (21) into the courthouse in Shelby, North Carolina

Mr Roof appeared in a grey striped prison jumpsuit with his hands in shackles.

He answered "yes" several times in response to the judge's questions but otherwise did not speak.

This was the 21-year-old's third time inside a Charleston courtroom and his third time leaving his cell since he was arrested on June 17.

Mr Roof has already been charged with nine counts of murder in state court in Charleston in South Carolina.

If found guilty, he could face the death penalty.

He also faces three counts of attempted murder.

Read More: Suspected Charleston shooter could buy gun due to background check mix-up - FBI

The federal charges are based on evidence that the suspect targeted the victims "because of their race and in order to interfere with their exercise of religion," US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in announcing the indictment.

Mr Roof planned the murders for months with the "goal of increasing racial tensions throughout the nation and seeking retribution for perceived wrongs he believed African-Americans had committed against white people," Lynch said.   

Read More: Charleston church killings trial next year

Following the massacre, a website linked to Mr Roof surfaced containing a racist manifesto, showing him in photos posing with Confederate flags, a banner from the American Civil War widely considered a symbol of slavery.

The shooting spree at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church prompted South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and national leaders to call for legislation to remove the Confederate battle flag from the state capitol grounds in Columbia, where it had flown for more than 50 years.

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