South Carolina church massacre victims each hit by multiple gunshots
A forensic pathologist gave a grim accounting at Dylann Roof’s federal hate crimes trial on Wednesday of the multiple gunshot wounds suffered by the nine people killed last year at a historic black church in Charleston.
Some of the victims’ family members chose to leave the courtroom before the testimony by Dr. S. Erin Presnell, a forensic pathologist at the Medical University of South Carolina. Others stayed, wiping away tears as jurors viewed X-rays of the bodies and photos of the recovered bullets.
Myra Thompson, who led the Bible study where Roof has admitted opening fire the night of June 17, 2015, was shot at least eight times, Presnell testified. Susie Jackson, who was 87 and the oldest victim, was hit at least 10 times. The Reverend Clementa Pinckney, pastor at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and a state legislator, died from five gunshots.
The evidence and testimony were among the final pieces of the federal government’s death penalty case against Roof, a self-described white supremacist facing 33 charges of hate crimes resulting in death, obstruction of religion and firearms violations.
Prosecutors said Polly Sheppard, one of two adults who survived the massacre, would be their last witness before they rested their case on Wednesday.
Defense lawyers said they may call some witnesses as well. If Roof is convicted, he has indicated he wants to represent himself during the penalty phase of the trial, when jurors would decide if he should be sentenced to prison or death.
Closing arguments in the case are expected on Thursday.
(Reporting by Harriet McLeod; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Bill Trott)