A jury took less than three hours Tuesday to condemn white supremacist mass murderer Dylann Roof to death for killing nine black parishioners at a historic South Carolina church in 2015. As the unanimous verdict was read in Charleston federal court, an unrepentant Roof, 22, stared straight ahead and showed no emotion.
After the verdict, Judge Richard Gergel instructed the 12 jurors to leave the courtroom, and then Roof asked for new lawyers to file a motion for a new trial.
But Gergel said he was “strongly disinclined” to do so and told Roof to sleep on his request, according to local media reports.
Having found Roof guilty of all 33 counts against him last month, jurors weighed a sentence of life in prison or death, unanimously deciding that Roof — who confessed to the killings, saying he wanted to spark a race war — deserved lethal injection for the massacre at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Earlier in the day, Roof barely tried convincing jurors to spare his life and remained unapologetic for his sick crimes.
“I have the right to ask you to give me a life sentence, but I’m not sure what good it would do anyway,” said Roof, who represented himself during the penalty phase, in his brief closing arguments.
He also insisted he didn’t hate black people — and that he felt compelled to carry out the slayings.
“You may remember in my confession I said I had to do it,” Roof said. “I guess that’s not really true. I didn’t have to do it, no one made me do it. What I meant when I said that was I felt like I had to do it and I still feel like I had to do it.”
Meanwhile, prosecutors reminded jurors that Roof — who wrote in a jailhouse journal that he doesn’t regret what he did — targeted the worshippers after they’d invited him in to join Bible study that day. “They welcomed a 13th person that night . . . with a kind word, a Bible, a handout and a chair,” said Assistant US Attorney Jay Richardson during his closing argument. “He had come with a hateful heart and a Glock .45.”
Gergel will formally sentence Roof Wednesday morning.
But his lawyers, who represented him during the guilt phase, said the case is far from over.
“Today’s sentencing decision means that this case will not be over for a very long time,” the lawyers said in a statement. “We are sorry that, despite our best efforts, the legal proceedings have shed so little light on the reasons for this tragedy.”
Roof still faces murder charges in state court, where prosecutors are also seeking the death penalty.
His family members issued a statement saying they will “always love Dylann” and felt sympathy for the victims’ families.
“We will struggle as long as we live to understand why he committed this horrible attack, which caused so much pain to so many good people,” they said.
There are 43 inmates on death row in South Carolina, one of 31 death-penalty states, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Death-row inmates typically spend more than decade awaiting execution, the center said.