Acting as his own attorney, Dylann Roof, the killer of nine black parishioners in Charleston, South Carolina faced the jurors on Wednesday who will decide whether he is given the death penalty or life in prison.
Many of those who lost loved ones believe that the death penalty would bring justice. Other grieving relatives will not speak on the issue, preferring to leave that decision to the justice system.
On December 15, the federal jury found 22-year-old Roof guilty on all 33 counts he was facing. The jury of eight white women, one white man, two black women, and a black man–took less than two hours to make that decision, reported ABC News 4 in South Carolina.
Roof confessed to the hate crime killing of the nine black Americans at the Mother Emanuel AME Church prayer service on June 17, 2015, including senior pastor and state senator Clementa C. Pinckney. The jurors saw the video made by the FBI of this confession.
Now the sentencing phase has begun and families of those senselessly slain will have an opportunity to talk to the jurors about what their loved ones meant to them.
U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel signed an order on Monday that Roof must confine himself to the lectern and to his seat at the defense table. He is not to approach witnesses or the judge and must do so through a third party. The convicted murderer is serving as lead counsel but he has defense council for assistance.
Roof rejected the insanity defense, and on Wednesday he told jurors “there’s noting wrong with me psychologically,” reported the local ABC News affiliate. Just two days ago after almost eight hours of testimony, the federal judge presiding over the case ruled that Roof is competent to stand trial, and he is competent to represent himself. Roof was given one day to prepare for the sentencing phase.
When the convicted killer began his brief statement, one woman said something and then walked out of the courtroom. Two other women walked out soon thereafter, reported ABC News. Media reports say that Roof did not apologize, nor did he show any remorse.
The first witness called to the stand was Jennifer Pinckney, the wife of slain pastor and South Carolina State Senator Clementa Pinckney. She told jurors she was in her husband’s office with their daughter when the gunshots began. She locked the door and put her daughter under the desk and told her not to say a word. She testified for more than two hours.
Reverend Kylon Middleton, a longtime friend of the pastor and Sen. Clementa Pinckney was the second witness to be called. He testified that Pinckney never forgot his roots and always worked hard to help his congregants.
Rev. Anthony Thompson cried as he testified that he and his wife Myra had plans to pursue religious careers and work in the church.
A jail house journal that Roof wrote six weeks after the murders said, “I have not shed a tear for the innocent people I killed.”
Roof did not question any of the witnesses called to the stand by federal prosecutors. In all, prosecutors said they will be calling several dozen witnesses during sentencing. Roof said he will not call any witnesses on his behalf.
The judge sustained Roof’s objection to the admission of some unknown photographs.
Breitbart News reported on June 20, 2015, that a manifesto was found that was believed to be Roof’s. The manifesto, which was registered in the killer’s name, revealed “deeply racist, anti-American, anti-Semitic, and white supremacist views.” It was created in February 2015–months before the murders.
The mass-murderer was reported to say this about blacks in his manifesto – “Ni—-rs are stupid and violent.” He added “Jewish agitation of the black race” is the reason blacks behave the way they do. His solution–“Segregation was not a bad thing … It existed to protect us from them.” He said that apartheid as in South Africa should be imposed to strip blacks of their rights. Roof expressed racist disdain for Jews and Hispanics also.
Roof said in his manifesto, “I hate the sight of the American flag. Modern American patriotism is an absolute joke.”
A photo of Roof burning the American flag went viral after the shootings.
A state murder trial is pending and set to start later in January.