A U.S. jury on Tuesday condemned white supremacist Dylan Roof to death for the hate-fueled killings of nine black parishioners at a Bible study meeting in a Charleston, South Carolina, church in 2015.
The same jury last month found Roof, 22, guilty of 33 federal charges, including hate crimes resulting in death, for the shootings at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Jurors deliberated for less than three hours. Roof stared straight ahead as the judge read through the jury’s verdict findings before announcing his death sentence.
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.
Roof’s hate was apparent as he was unremorseful during testimony of the entire trial.
Roof still faces a trial on murder charges in state court, where prosecutors also are seeking the death penalty.
A survivor of last year’s massacre of nine African American churchgoers in Charleston, SC recalled in federal court today how gunman, Dylann Roof, spared her life, telling her he needed her “to tell the story.”
Polly Sheppard (pictured above left), told a jury, she dove under a table as shots rang out at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on June 17, 2015 at the end of a Bible study session.
When Sheppard opened her eyes, Roof’s boots were in her line of sight, she told the jury who’s hearing the federal death penalty case in South Carolina, what Roof said to her.
“Did I shoot you yet?” Roof asked, according to Sheppard.
“No,” she replied.
“I’m not going to. I need you to tell the story,” Roof said.
Roof was given a Bible and pamphlet when he entered the church and joined the group, Sheppard recalled.
At the end of the session about 50 minutes later, the group stood to pray, closing their eyes.
That was when gunshots rang out.
Sheppard said she mistook them for the sparking of old electrical wiring until her friend Felicia Sanders started screaming.
“Oh, he’s shooting everybody, Miss Polly,” Sheppard recalled Sanders saying.
Sheppard told the court how Roof executed 26-year-old Tywanza Sanders, Felicia Sanders’s son.
“Why are you doing this? We mean you no harm,” said a wounded Tywanza Sanders, who propped himself up on his elbows to address the attacker before being shot dead.
“I have to. I have to. You’re raping our women and taking over the nation,” Roof said, according to Sheppard’s account.
Closing arguments are set for tomorrow, with the jury expected to begin deliberations. Should he be found guilty, Roof has elected to represent himself during the sentencing phase of the trial. Either way, he faces the death penalty.
Dylan Roof’smother suffered a heart attack after prosecutors described how her son planned a cold and calculated killing of nine black church members in a racially motivated attack, Roof’s attorney said in court documents Thursday.
Roof’s mother collapsed and said “I’m sorry” several times on Wednesday as family members and court security came to help her during the opening of her son’s federaldeath penalty trial.
Roof’s attorney mentioned the heart attack in court documents asking for a mistrial, because a survivor’s testimony was so emotional that “spectators and even court personnel – including members of the prosecution and defense – were crying with her.”
Felicia Sanders the lone survivor of this horrific attack told jurors about the horror of seeing her son and her aunt shot to death and sheltering with her granddaughter beneath a table. At one point, she looked across the courtroom toward Roof and called him “evil, evil, evil.”
“There’s no place on Earth for him other than the pit of hell.” Sanders concluded.
Computer images of the crime scene were shown to the jury. The pictures showed the victims lying in pools of blood on the beige tile floor of the fellowship hall at Emanuel AME Church. Most were clustered around circular tables where they had been holding a Biblestudy.
The defense is trying to save Roof from getting a sentence of “death” and has said Roof is willing to plead guilty if the death penalty is taken off the table. They have made a similar offer in state court where Roof is charged with nine counts of murder and faces another death penalty trial next year.