Dylann Roof: Court upholds death sentence for Charleston church shooter

Roof, the first person handed the death penalty for a federal hate crime, killed nine churchgoers in 2015

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A federal court has upheld the death sentence handed down to Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof.

The US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Wednesday that Roof – the first person ever sentenced to death for a federal hate crime – would still be executed. He was sentenced in 2017 for his assault on a Bible study session at Mother Emanuel AME Church two years earlier.

The attack by the white supremacist killed nine Black worshippers.

Roof, now 27, is currently imprisoned in Indiana. Transcripts of hearings “to determine his trial competency revealed that Roof told his lawyers he’d seek appeals to drag his case out as long as he could,” AP reported in May. “With the passage of time, Roof explained, he expected white supremacists to take over the US, pardon him for the killings and make him governor of South Carolina.”

He has shown no remorse for his actions and acted as his own lawyer during the initial sentencing. Instead, he said that “anyone who hates anything in their mind has a good reason for it”.

“I felt like I had to do it, and I still feel like I had to do it,” he told jurors at his trial.

Roof was charged with 33 counts of hate crimes and nine counts of murder for the attack he perpetrated on June 17, 2015, when he walked into church and opened fire on the small gathering of 12 – including a child, a preacher, a minister, eight women and one young man.

He killed nine of them as they prayed after the group had welcomed him to join them in the church basement – opening fire with a gun he purchased after lying about previous drug convictions. The victims’ names were Cynthia Hurd, 54; Tywanza Sanders, 26; Sharonda Singleton; Myra Thompson, 59; Ethel Lance, 70; Susie Jackson, 87; the Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr.; DePayne Doctor and State Sen. Clementa Pinckney, the church pastor.

Roof then fled the church and sparked an interstate manhunt before being apprehended the next day in North Carolina during a traffic stop.

Two of the survivors testified at his trial, with one calling him “pure evil”. Another member of the church called him a “subhuman miscreant”.

Felicia Sanders was with her son, aunt and granddaughter in the church when Roof opened fire. Only she and her then-11-year-old survived from the family as they played dead.

“I feel sad for you,” she told Roof in the courtroom. “When I look at you, I just see somebody is cold, who is lost, who the devil has come back to reclaim.”

“Yes, I forgive you. That was the easiest thing I had to do. But you can’t help someone who don’t want to help themselves and that is you.”

Roof had become radicalised online and frequently utilised Confederate imagery in his postings. Following the crime and his conviction and sentencing, South Carolina removed it from its state flag.

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