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Tennessee church shooter Emanuel Samson sentenced to life without parole

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A man convicted in 2017 Nashville church shooting that left one worshipper dead and seven others wounded, the rest of his life in prison without chance of parole, a jury ruled Tuesday.

Emanuel Kidega Samson, 27, was convicted of first-degree murder Friday in the death of 38-year-old Melanie Crow. The jury deliberated for less than two hours Tuesday before passing sentence. Samson is also due to be sentenced in July on 42 other criminal counts, all those sentences are largely symbolic.

Prosecutors said Samson shot Crow on Sept. 24, 2017, as they walked to retrieve a cough drop out of her car outside the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in the Nashville suburb of Antioch. Samson, a former congregant in the church, shot Crow times in the face and three times in the back, the Tennessean reported.

After shooting Crow, Samson in the church wearing a clown mask and tactical vest and opened fire from within.

The researchers found a note in Samson’s car that the shooting was payback for the June 2015 massacre at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S. C., in which white supremacist Dylann Roof killed nine African-Americans during a bible study session.

Emanuel Kidega Samson testifies in his own defense in his trial last week. (Shelley Mays/The Tennessean via AP, Pool)

“Dylann Roof is less than nothing,” the note to find in Samson’s car read. “The blood that 10 of your kind of strainer is that the color on the RBG [Pan-African] flag in terms of revenge.”

Samson is black and his victims were white. During his trial, jurors heard jail calls of October 2017, in which Samson laughed about the shooting with his former girlfriend. At a given moment, Samson said he heard the victims say: “what a funny n—” when he was on the floor of the sanctuary, after being shot during a struggle with a churchgoer.

Lawyer Jennifer Lynn Thompson had argued for leniency, saying that even with parole, Samson would be 76 years old before he leave prison. In closing arguments, they suggested to the jury that the “real Mr. Samson” was polite, kind and helpful, as some people recalled his behavior in the years before the murder.

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In a pre-recorded testimony, forensic psychiatrist Stephen Montgomery said Samson suffer from a mental illness, but added that the disease is not to make Samson not premediate his actions or stop him from appreciating their wrongfulness.

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Montgomery said Samson being treated for schizoaffective disorder and probably suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder from a childhood spent in a refugee camp in Africa and then a wrong house in the United States.

Lawyer Jennifer Thompson delivers her opening statement last week. (George Walker IV/The Tennessean via AP, Pool)

The testimony of Samson’s mental illness was suppressed during the decision phase of the process, because they do not meet the criteria for an insanity defense.

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Assistant district Attorney Amy Hunter said the judges must not forget Samson victims, including those who witnessed the shooting, but were unharmed.

Hunter said that she wants judges to remember: “the children are now afraid to come back to the church — the children who say: ‘If I go to church today, I’m dead?”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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