A jury found Dylann Roof, 22, guilty of all 33 federal charges associated with the cold-blooded murder of nine Black church members during a Bible study last year at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina on Thursday.
Early on in the deliberations, the jury asked to review the video in which Roof confessed to two FBI agents. Roof, a self-declared white supremacist, admitted to last year’s killings at the church less than a day after the massacre. He was immediately charged with federal hate crimes, including murder, attempted murder and weapons charges.
During his 50-minute closing argument, Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathan Williams called Roof a calculated killer, apologizing to jurors before showing them the crime scene photos of each of the murdered church members alongside an innocent snapshot of each person taken while he/she was alive.
‘‘Those people couldn’t see the hatred in his heart any more than they could see the .45-caliber handgun and the eight magazines concealed around his waist,’’ said Williams.
Williams showed the jury each of Roof’s nine victims, allowing them to register the horrible consequences of Roof’s actions: church’s pastor and state senator Rev. Clementa Pinckney; Myra Thompson, 59, who’d been licensed to preach that very night; Cynthia Hurd, 54, a librarian who supported Thompson; Depayne Middleton-Doctor, 49, who was also licensed to preach that day; Daniel ‘‘Dapper Dan’’ Simmons, 74; Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45, a high school track coach; Ethel Lance, 70, the church sexton; Susie Jackson, 87, who sang in the choir; and Tywanza Sanders, 26, Jackson’s nephew.
In addition to Roof’s videotaped confession, prosecutors presented excerpts from Roof’s journal as evidence of his racial hatred and his premeditation.
After nearly a week of excruciating testimony from thirty witnesses for the prosecution, it took jurors just two hours to convict Roof. The defense put up no witnesses but did try to present evidence establishing Roof’s mental state. The judge, however, ruled that this evidence had no bearing on Roof’s guilt or innocence. Roof chose not to testify on his own behalf.
“He needs to be held accountable for every bullet,” Williams told the jury.
In the next phase of the trial, scheduled to begin January 3, jurors will decide whether Roof should spend the rest of his life in prison or be sentenced to death. Roof has asked to represent himself in this penalty phase.
– Danielle Bizzarro