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Dylann Roof sentenced to death for killing 9 church members

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Charleston, S.C., shooting suspect Dylann Roof is escorted from the Cleveland County Courthouse in Shelby, N.C.

CHARLESTON, S.C. >> An unrepentant Dylann Roof was sentenced to death Tuesday for fatally shooting nine black church members during a Bible study session, becoming the first person ordered executed for a federal hate crime.

A jury deliberated for about three hours before returning with the decision, capping a trial in which the 22-year-old avowed white supremacist did not fight for his life or show any remorse. He served as his own attorney during sentencing and never asked for forgiveness or mercy or explained the massacre.

Hours earlier, Roof threw away one last chance to plead for his life, telling jurors: “I still feel like I had to do it.”

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.

When the verdict was read, he stood stoic. Several family members of victims wiped away quiet tears.

Roof told FBI agents when they arrested him after the June 17, 2015, slayings that he wanted the shootings to bring back segregation or perhaps start a race war. Instead, the slayings had a unifying effect, as South Carolina removed the Confederate flag from its Statehouse for the first time in more than 50 years. Other states followed suit, taking down Confederate banners and monuments. Roof had posed with the flag in photos.

Malcolm Graham, whose sister Cynthia Hurd was slain, said the jury made the right decision.

“There is no room in America’s smallest jail cell for hatred, racism and discrimination,” he said from his home in Charlotte, North Carolina. “The journey for me and my family today has come to an end.”

Roof 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 he targeted 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.

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.

Jennifer Pinckney testified about huddling under a desk with her 6-year-old daughter, her hand clasped over the girl’s mouth to keep her quiet, as Roof started firing.

Not knowing for certain if the danger had passed, Pinckney dialed 911 and breathlessly told an operator she had heard shots inside the church.

“I think there’s been a shooting. I’m in the closet, under a desk,” Pinckney told the operator. “Please hurry.”

On the call, Pinckney tries to comfort her daughter Malana, who had been watching cartoons in her father’s office as he participated in Bible study.

“Daddy’s dead?” Malana asks.

“No, baby, no,” the mother says. But at that moment, Pinckney said, she knew her husband, church pastor Clementa Pinckney, had been killed.

The prosecutor reminded jurors that Clementa Pinckney, who was also a state senator, would be remembered for singing goofy songs and watching cartoons with his young daughters. In a sign of perhaps how important that testimony was, jurors re-watched a speech by Pinckney in which he talked about the history of Emanuel and its mission.

The jury convicted Roof last month of all 33 federal charges he faced, including hate crimes. He never explained his actions to jurors, saying only that “anyone who hates anything in their mind has a good reason for it.”

Roof insisted that he was not mentally ill but did not call any witnesses or present any evidence.

In one of his journals, he wrote that he didn’t believe in psychology, calling it “a Jewish invention” that “does nothing but invent diseases and tell people they have problems when they don’t.”

His attorneys said he did not want to present any evidence that might embarrass him or his family.

After he was sentenced, Roof asked a judge to appoint him new attorneys, but the judge said he was not inclined to do so because they had performed “admirably.”

“We are sorry that, despite our best efforts, the legal proceedings have shed so little light on the reasons for this tragedy,” the attorneys said in a veiled reference to the mental health issues they wanted to present.

A judge will formally sentence him during a hearing Wednesday.

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

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    • In Hawaii, he would be given probation after 5 months. /// I note that Hawaii’s weak police force rarely if ever record hate crimes that occur here. It is all done to reassure tourists I suppose. Give South Carolina good marks for honesty about their real social conditions.

      • As a Hawaii raised 70 year old I’ve never had a problem getting with others. Some people feel abused if someone glances at them but that’s their problem. Even though I am white, I would hate to be in the S. Carolina judicial system.

      • Re:
        “I guess that means he’ll die of old age. If he’s sentenced to death, it should be carried out within the month.”

        All… death sentences should be carried out in a month… or sooner.

  • He must have known this is the way everything would play out and just didn’t care. Where do monsters like this come from and exist in our society? I think there is much more to this story about how he became this way (not to say he is not to blame too) by being surrounded by those who thought the same way. Is it just me, or is this country and even the world in general, “sliding down a slippery slope” at an ever-increasing speed of incomprehensible brutal savagery, all without conscience.

    • If you read history, you’ll see we’ve always been a violent, brutal species. It’s just that now we have more effective means of killing. And thru mass media we can see what happens around the world in an instant, creating the feeling that it’s happening more often.

      • More effective means of killing, yet we as a species worldwide are killing each other less often than in most times going back 2000 years. Yes your read that right. Look it up if you don’t believe me. Everything is relative. There are still a lot of problems today, but a little perspective is something a lot of people lack.

      • With a few notable exceptions, 2000 years ago the strong always prevailed over the weak, the many always prevailed over the few or the one, the young always prevailed over the aged, and a man always prevailed over a woman. Do you feel a distinct nostalgia for those days?

      • IRT Poidoggy: 100% agree with the Mass Media part…Mass Media applies to everyone’s OVER Reaction in many things…We now know what we didn’t know and that’s why we think many things are worse…#MAGA

    • Of course the general public doesn’t know everything detail of Roof’s upbringing. With constant 24/7 media coverage, the internet and a world more interconnected than ever, it’s easier than ever for extremists to find like minded people. Who knows how much his environment or his genetics playing in causing him to act out this way. Some people are just like this. Probably a mix of environment and genetics. Nature and nuture.

      As far as “sliding down a slippery slope”, I couldn’t disagree more. Like PoiDoggy said, we’ve always been a violent, brutal species. Actually I do believe society has advanced a lot since the days of gladiators being torn apart by lions in front of a cheering crowd, people being burned at the stake in a public square, nonbelievers subject to torture and death, genocide on the scale of millions, etc. Yes, humanity has come a long way despite what you see on the evening news. 300 years ago it was totally acceptable in this country to kill a black person for whatever reason. Now it isn’t. Tell me which is more civilized. It’s just that now we’re bombarded by images 24/7 of everything wrong with the world. Good deeds don’t attract viewers.

      • I don’t disagree with your and other previous comments as I am not naive, but it just seems the depravity of these types has gotten worse. How many times have you seen the description of their acts and they appear more heinous and soulless than ever. Perhaps it is true that the reporting of these acts in modern media has made us more aware, but I have to say that it gives pause that the nature of human beings is sadly more suspect than hopeful in nature. If I can quote from the movie “Contact”, “You’re an interesting species; an interesting mix. Capable of such exquisite dreams; such horrifying nightmares.

      • Morimoto, you’ve made a valid and truthful comment and your point well taken! Why some doesn’t understand or see your point is beyond me! I’m not a fan of yours but lately I’ve notice there have been more compassionate and at the same time honest to a tee on most of your posts! of course we’ve advance a lot from 2000 years ago. Had there been the Media 2000 years ago, their news would keep the whole world in constant fear and each family in need of daily protections! So you’re right we have advance into a better society than 2000 years ago!

  • Actually I think that’s what he wanted. He’s 22 years old. I think spending the next 10-20 years in prison (depending on appeals) is better than spending the next 40-50 years in prison without the chance of getting out. He got off easy IMO.

    • I agree. The dude wants to go down so he can be a legend with people who have similar perspectives. I really believe that the best thing you can do is put them in a cell and never let them out. No visitors, no media interviews, nothing. Just a person forgotten by history, left to rot and die all alone.

      • No. It is better to execute someone who is pure evil then to keep them alive in prison, possibly to infect or hurt others with their hate. Charles Manson comes to mind in seeming to thrive in prison and has an almost celebrity following for many troubled people in society. I think Dahmer was not executed because he made a deal to confess and identify all of his victims, however some prison inmate did the right thing and brought justice to the families of the slain and to society.

        • No my friend you can put him in a supermax where he stays alone in a cell for 23 hours a day, then gets out to a rec yard by himself for an hour. Supermax inmates never come into contact with any other inmate. He is isolated.

        • I’ve said it before, but the death penalty has to be retained as a possible sentence in our criminal justice system and here’s why: there HAS to be some meaningful penalty to hold over the heads of prison inmates already serving life sentences without parole. If such a prisoner somehow commits a murder or a Hannibal Lecter kind of maiming upon a guard or a prison staff member, another inmate or a visitor, just what do you do? Further limit his access to HBO, Showtime or Netflix?

    • Dylann Roof is possibly angling to commit a “Timothy McVeigh.” Should Roof choose to disclaim or reject any appeals on his behalf, he stands to exit as some kind of martyr (if your mind works that way) bestowing more lasting meaning to his life than if he had gotten a good education, had a successful career and maybe marriage, and then died an old man in bed.

      • Education, career, marriage, etc. would have required some measure of dedication and character. He played the cards he was dealt – which were apparently blank.

    • Now that many drugs used in the lethal injection are not available because drug companies refuse to provide these drugs to prisons and doctors refusing to participate, you are correct firing squad is the most humane and efficient means of executing a person who deserves to be killed. The best thing is to quickly and quietly execute Roof with a firing squad and do NOT film or record it. There all always people against the death penalty but this case is clearly black and white and execution should be the ONLY option.

    • Too practical and easy for the average person. Liberals would rather debate the issue. In the mean time he has 3 squares, health care, entertainment, clean sheets and place to sleep without working. All on the taxpayers’ dime.

  • He should go to whatever fate awaits him and then be forgotten completely as soon as possible. His name, photos – all mention of his life history, family and etc. need to be ignored, buried and forgotten in the way of all forms of waste, by flush or a shovel.

    At least this lump wasn’t given a cool moniker by the media.

  • Death penalty foes should be asked to explain why a lesser penalty would be appropriate for such a cold-blooded murderer who admits his guilt and shows no remorse.

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