US jury asked to condemn South Carolina church gunman to death
Convicted murderer Dylann Roof should be executed for the hate-fueled killings of nine people who welcomed him to their Bible study meeting at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, a U.S. prosecutor argued on Tuesday.
Roof, a 22-year-old white supremacist, sat with parishioners at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church for 40 minutes on June 17, 2015, before opening fire as they closed their eyes to pray, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson reminded jurors.
“The defendant had come not to learn, but he’d come with a hateful heart and a Glock 45,” the prosecutor said during his closing argument for the penalty phase of Roof’s federal trial.
Roof pulled the trigger 75 times as he walked around the room, methodically executing the churchgoers, Richardson said.
The killer had started planning the shooting six months earlier, choosing a target for its importance to African Americans, and wrote from his jail cell after his arrest that he had no remorse, the prosecutor said.
As Richardson spoke, jurors again viewed photos of the victims’ bodies.
The dead were Clementa Pinckney, 41, the church’s pastor and state senator; DePayne Middleton Doctor, 49; Sharonda Coleman Singleton, 45; Cynthia Hurd, 54; Susie Jackson, 87; Ethel Lance, 70; Myra Thompson, 59; Daniel Simmons Sr., 74; and Tywanza Sanders, 26.
“What’s wrong here is the calculated racism, the choice to target a church, particularly the people in a church,” Richardson said. “What’s wrong here is precisely why this is a case that justifies the death penalty.”
Roof, who is representing himself, also is expected to address jurors before they deliberate whether he should be sentenced to death or sent to prison for life.
The same jury last month found him guilty of 33 charges, including hate crimes resulting in death.
If jurors cannot reach a unanimous decision on the death penalty, Roof will receive life in prison without possibility of parole.
Jurors heard four days of testimony from prosecution witnesses during the trial’s penalty phase, including family members and friends who offered heartrending memories of the shooting victims.
Roof put up no defense against the death penalty. He did not cross examine witnesses, rarely objected to evidence and stared straight ahead, unmoving, without looking at family members who testified.
(Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Alistair Bell)