(CHARLESTON, S.C.) — Dylann Roof, 22, has been sentenced to death for killing nine black churchgoers during a Bible study in Charleston, South Carolina.
The jury’s decision had to be unanimous to sentence Roof to death.
The jury began deliberating Roof’s fate earlier Tuesday, after Roof told the jury in a closing statement, “I still feel like I had to do it.”
The verdict comes at the end of the federal death penalty case in which he was convicted of hate crimes resulting in death among other charges. Roof also faces a state trial in which he may again face the death penalty.
Roof said Tuesday in his closing argument, according to ABC affiliate WCIV, “I think that it’s safe to say that no one in their right mind wants to go into a church and kill people.
“In my confession to the FBI, I told them that I had to do it.”
“But obviously that’s not really true. I didn’t have to do it, and no one made me do it,” Roof said, according to WCIV. “What I meant when I said that was I felt like I had to do it, and I still feel like I had to do it.”
In the government’s closing argument Tuesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson laid out the government’s argument for the death penalty.
He recounted to the jury how on the night of the June 17, 2015, shooting, the unsuspecting victims, who had gathered for a Bible study, welcomed Roof, a stranger, to join them. Roof then opened fire on them; the victims were vulnerable targets with their eyes closed in prayer, Richardson said, according to WCIV.
Richardson said that before the killings, Roof’s racist hatred built up for years.
Roof scouted the Emanuel AME Church months before, calling and visiting, Richardson said. After buying the murder weapon with his birthday money, Roof bought enough magazines to have 88 rounds, which had racist symbolism, Richardson said: 88 is an abbreviation for the Nazi salute “Heil Hitler,” as “h” is the eighth letter in the alphabet.
Besides a website where he shared his message of “hate,” Richardson said, Roof mentally and physically prepared for the shooting; he took photos with his gun pointed at the camera and recorded video of his target practice.
“He chose to videotape himself doing it so he could see the very last images these victims would see,” Richardson said, according to WCIV. “He wanted to see what he would look like as he stood over them, executing them.”
“This is calculated. Misguided but thoughtful,” Richardson said, according to WCIV. “He spent years acquiring this deep hatred, this deep hatred we would all like to believe could not exist in someone. But it does. You’ve seen it.”
Richardson said that after Roof left the scene of the shooting, he “fully understood the horrific nature” of his crime. Roof fled on back roads to North Carolina, knowing police were looking for him, and he avoided using his debit card, knowing it could be tracked, Richardson said.
While Roof expressed sorrow to his parents and pity for himself, he didn’t shed a tear for the people he killed, Richardson said. Roof showed multiple times that he didn’t have remorse, according to Richardson, from his jailhouse manifesto with racist language to the shoes he wore in court during this trial that had racist symbols on them.
Roof was willing to plead guilty if the government would take the death penalty off the table, which Richardson said shows “that he wants to spend his life in prison, listening to the radio, and writing more racist filth,” WCIV reported.
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