Jury sentences Dylann Roof to the death in the Charleston Church shooting

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) —


 


UPDATE 4:38pm

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Dylann Roof threw away one last chance to plead for his life in front of the jurors who convicted him of killing nine black churchgoers, telling them Tuesday: “I still feel like I had to do it.”

The jury’s decision must be unanimous. If the panel is unable to agree on whether the white gunman should be executed, he automatically gets a life sentence.

A court spokeswoman said jurors had reached a decision after about three hours of deliberations. It was to be announced Tuesday afternoon.

During Roof’s closing argument, he walked to the podium less than 10 feet from the jury box with a yellow sheet of paper. He put it down and looked past jurors for about 30 seconds before beginning to read off the page.

Every juror looked directly at Roof as he spoke for about five minutes. A few nodded as he reminded them that they said during jury selection they could fairly weigh the factors of his case. Only one of them, he noted, had to disagree to spare his life.

“I have the right to ask you to give me a life sentence, but I’m not sure what good it would do anyway,” he said.

Roof paused several times, but jurors never took their eyes off him. After one of the pauses, he abruptly said, “That’s all,” quickly gathered his sheet of paper and walked back to the defense table.

Jurors began their deliberations early Tuesday afternoon.

After more than two hours of discussions, they re-watched a speech by one of the victims, Clementa Pinckney, the church pastor and a state senator. In it, Pinckney talks about the history of Emanuel and its mission.

Jurors also asked if Roof could safely be confined if he were sentenced to life in prison. The judge told them to re-read the instructions he provided them before their deliberations.

The attacker specifically picked out Emanuel AME Church, the South’s oldest black church, to carry out the cold, calculated slaughter, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson said.

The 12 people Roof targeted on June 17, 2015, opened the door for a stranger with a smile, he said. Three people survived the attack.

“They welcomed a 13th person that night … with a kind word, a Bible, a handout and a chair,” Richardson said during his closing argument. “He had come with a hateful heart and a Glock .45.”

The gunman sat with the Bible study group for about 45 minutes. During the final prayer — when everyone’s eyes were closed — he started firing. He stood over some of the fallen victims, shooting them again as they lay on the floor, Richardson said.

The prosecutor reminded jurors about each one of the victims and the bloody scene that Roof left in the church’s lower level.

The jury convicted him last month of all 33 federal charges he faced, including hate crimes. Roof, 22, would be the first person to get the death penalty for federal hate crime convictions.

Roof did not explain his actions to jurors, saying only that “anyone who hates anything in their mind has a good reason for it.” In his FBI confession, Roof said he hoped the massacre would bring back segregation or start a race war.

Nearly two dozen friends and relatives of the victims testified during the sentencing phase of the trial. They shared cherished memories and talked about a future without a mother, father, sister or brother. They shed tears, and their voices shook, but none of them said whether Roof should face the death penalty.

Richardson recalled Jennifer Pinckney’s remarks about her husband, Clementa, who was remembered for singing goofy songs and watching cartoons with their young daughters in his spare time.

Roof acted as his own attorney and did not question any witnesses or put up any evidence.

The last person sent to federal death row was Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in 2015.

___

Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP. Read more of her work at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/meg-kinnard/ .

Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/jeffrey-collins

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Dylann Roof’s assault on Emanuel AME Church left a total of 12 victims: Nine who were killed that June night and three who survived the hail of bullets in the basement of the beautiful, historic structure in downtown Charleston.

Now, after hearing testimony from relatives of those slain in the 2015 attack during a Wednesday night Bible study, the focus in Roof’s trial again switches to a new set of 12 people: the jury.

On Tuesday, jurors are set to begin deliberating over whether Roof, 22, should get the death penalty or life in prison for his crimes. Their decision must be unanimous. If they are unable to agree, a life sentence is automatically imposed.

In a courtroom a mile from the slayings, the same jury last month convicted Roof of 33 federal crimes, including hate crimes and obstruction of religion. After a holiday break, jurors returned last week to court, where for four days prosecutors laid out their case for why Roof should be executed. The government called nearly two dozen friends and relatives who shared cherished memories and opined about a future without a mother, father, sister or brother.

They shed tears and their voices shook, but none of them said whether Roof should face the death penalty or life in prison for gunning down the church members. That will be left up to the jury, with nine white and three black members.

Jurors will get the case after closing arguments Tuesday morning from prosecutors and perhaps Roof, who has represented himself during sentencing but has put up no fight for his life. He didn’t call any witnesses, present any evidence and so far has not asked for mercy.

He did try to limit the amount of heart-wrenching testimony the jurors heard, but with only little success.

Survivor Jennifer Pinckney talked about the life of her husband, church pastor and state Sen. Clementa Pinckney. She spoke about the harrowing minutes she spent huddled underneath a desk with her youngest daughter as shots rang out in the next room, unsure if the shooter was coming her way.

In the hours that followed, the mother had to somehow explain the death to her two daughters.

“I sat in front of the girls, and I basically told them that something had happened,” she said. “I think that that’s the hardest thing that I’ve ever had to do.”

The Rev. Anthony Thompson cried as he described a conversation with his wife, Myra, about their future plans to move and pursue studies and careers in the church.

“She was my world, and she was gone,” he said.

Survivor Felicia Sanders, who gave powerful testimony during the guilt phase of Roof’s trial, wrapped up prosecutors’ case last Wednesday, talking about her creative 26-year-old son, the youngest victim, and his commitment to his faith and Emanuel.

“That night they were getting basic instruction before leaving Earth,” Sanders said. “I did not know that was going to be the life of them.”

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