Dylann Roof was sentenced to death for killing nine black churchgoers during a Bible study in Charleston, South Carolina.
According to ABC News, the jury’s decision had to be unanimous to sentence Roof to death. The Justice Department said this is the first time a death penalty verdict was rendered in a federal hate crimes case.
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.
Melvin Graham, brother of slain churchgoer Cynthia Hurd, said after the sentence was read,
“Today we had justice for my sister…. I wish that this verdict could have brought her back.”
Graham said he supported the death penalty in this case, calling Roof’s crimes “executions.” He added that Roof 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. But when you look at the totality of what happened, it’s hard to say that this person deserves to live.”
Roof’s defense said in a statement that the
“sentencing decision means that this case will not be over for a very long time. We are sorry that, despite our best efforts, the legal proceedings have shed so little light on the reasons for this tragedy.”
The defense added that they express sympathy
“to all of the families who were so grievously hurt by Dylann Roof’s actions.”
Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement,
“Roof sought out and opened fire on African-American parishioners engaged in worship. … He did so because of their race. And he did so to interfere with their peaceful exercise of religion. The victims in the case led lives as compassionate civic and religious leaders; devoted public servants and teachers; and beloved family members and friends.
No verdict can bring back the nine we lost that day at Mother Emanuel,” Lynch continued. “And no verdict can heal the wounds of the five church members who survived the attack or the souls of those who lost loved ones to Roof’s callous hand. But we hope that the completion of the prosecution provides the people of Charleston — and the people of our nation — with a measure of closure.”
Roof told the jury earlier today 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. 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.”
Dylann roof represents himself during the sentencing phase of his federal trial, Jan. 10, 2017, in Charleston, S.C.
In the government’s closing argument today, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson laid out the government’s argument for the death penalty. Richardson said,
“He chose to videotape himself doing it so he could see the very last images these victims would see. He wanted to see what he would look like as he stood over them, executing them.
This is calculated. Misguided but thoughtful. 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.
…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 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.”
(Photos, YouTube, social media; via ABC News)