CHARLESTON, S. C. – Dylann Roof was convicted Thursday of last year’s horrific massacre at a historic black church in South Carolina that left nine parishioners killed in a study of the Bible. A federal jury found the Roof has become guilty of all 33 counts, including hate crimes and obstruction of the religion. Jurors took less than two hours to reach their verdict.
Here is what happened, and what to expect.
LIFE OR DEATH
After a break for the holidays, the judges will meet again Jan. 3 to hear more testimony and decide whether the Roof will get the death penalty or a lifetime prison sentence for the June 2015 slaughter at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.
The defense put no witnesses during the seven-day trial. They tried to present data about the Roof and the mental state, but the U. S. District Judge Richard Gergel ruled that had nothing to do with the Roof of the guilt or innocence.
Roof told the court again Thursday he wants to act as his own lawyer during the penalty phase.
THE ROOF OF THE HATE
Prosecutors say Roof wanted to start a race war. His two-hour confession to the FBI, approximately 17 hours after the shooting, seemed to be the key to the judges’ deliberation. An hour in, they asked to rehear the confession recorded on video.
Roof also documented his hatred in his diary, found in his car when he was arrested.
Roof believed the separation needed to return to keep white people out to fall to the level of the blacks. It had other false claims that whites were the superior race and that blacks loved slavery.
Testimony in the case to be opened and closed with two of the slaughter of the survivors.
Polly Sheppard said Roof told her that he wanted to leave her alive to tell the world why he attacked a historic African-American church.
“I have to. I have to, ” Sheppard called up the Roof to tell her. “You are our women, rape, and the takeover of the nation.”
Her 911 call was the final evidence jurors heard.
In closing arguments, Assistant district Attorney of the V. S. Nathan Williams mocked Roof for himself brave in his hate-filled magazine, and during his confession. Williams said that the real courage came from the victims that tried to stop him as he fired 77 bullets.
His 50-minute closing argument filled the court with excitement. On some occasions, the prosecutor raised his voice, saying the Roof was a cold, calculated killer. A number of relatives of the victims dabbed their eyes with tissues and jury members appeared emotional when Williams, after apologizing to them, showed crime scene photos of each person killed, together with a small picture of them during life.
Attorney David Bruck admitted Roof committed the massacre, but he asked jurors to look at his head and see what the cause was become of him, so full of hate, and him a suicidal man who is never aware of the severity of what he did.
The roof was just imitating what he saw on the internet and he believed that he had to give his life “a battle to the death between white people and black people that only he could see and act, Bruck said.
The process began with a testimony of Felicia Sanders, one of the three survivors, told the jury that she swished her legs in the blood of her dead aunt and the dying son, as Roof might be thinking that she was dead.
Sanders’ 11-year-old granddaughter also survive. Sanders said she held the girl close so she would not scream that she thought she would choke her.
“He said he was going to kill himself,” Sanders said. “I was counting. There is no place on Earth for him other than the pit of hell.”
Testimony of a survivor Polly Sheppard concluded, the prosecution of the case. Sheppard 911 shortly after the Roof opened fire. The heart-wrenching call was played for the jurors. It began with a prayer and a plea for help: “give an answer. Oh, God.”
Meanwhile, the Roof of the mother was in the audience for opening accounts. She collapsed as the judge paused for a break, and the defense lawyers said that they have a heart attack.
ANOTHER TRIAL NEXT YEAR
The roof is confronted with a second death penalty trial early next year in the state court, where he faces nine murders. A state judge is of the order of 600 prospective jurors to report to the Charleston County Courthouse on Jan. 17 for the first screening. To say that the trial will begin on or after Jan. 30. It is not clear when the federal case to be settled. For now, the Roof has lawyers in the state case.