Dylann Roof gets death sentence for Charleston church shootings

Dylann Roof

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP / WSPA) — The verdict is in for the Charleston church shooter, Dylann Roof.

He has been sentenced to death. Formal sentencing will happen Wednesday morning at 9:30 a.m.

It took the jury less than 3 hours to make the decision.

He is the first to get the death penalty for a federal hate crime case, according to the Associated Press.

The assault on Emanuel AME Church left a total of 12 victims: Nine who were killed that June night and three who survived the hail of bullets in the basement of the beautiful, historic structure in downtown Charleston.

The jury has asked the judge if Roof poses a threat to other inmates.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT

Andrew Johnson, a criminal defense lawyer says Roof has several options.

He can 1) ask for a new trial before the same judge that tried it before
He can 2) appeal to our circuit (4th circuit)
He can then petition to the US Supreme Court to review the case (a direct appeal)

If the direct appeal is denied, the suspect can usually file for PCR (Post Conviction Relief), which is usually stating there was an ineffective assistance of counsel.

Roof will not be able to file for Post Conviction Relief stating ineffective counsel because he represented himself.

The jury’s decision had to be unanimous. If they are unable to agree, a life sentence is automatically imposed.

In a courtroom a mile from the slayings, the same jury last month convicted Roof of 33 federal crimes, including hate crimes and obstruction of religion. After a holiday break, jurors returned last week to court, where for four days prosecutors laid out their case for why Roof should be executed. The government called nearly two dozen friends and relatives who shared cherished memories and opined 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 or life in prison for gunning down the church members. That will be left up to the jury, with nine white and three black members.

Roof, who has represented himself during sentencing but has put up no fight for his life. He didn’t call any witnesses, present any evidence and so far has not asked for mercy.

He did try to limit the amount of heart-wrenching testimony the jurors heard, but with only little success.

Survivor Jennifer Pinckney talked about the life of her husband, church pastor and state Sen. Clementa Pinckney. She spoke about the harrowing minutes she spent huddled underneath a desk with her youngest daughter as shots rang out in the next room, unsure if the shooter was coming her way.

In the hours that followed, the mother had to somehow explain the death to her two daughters.

“I sat in front of the girls, and I basically told them that something had happened,” she said. “I think that that’s the hardest thing that I’ve ever had to do.”

The Rev. Anthony Thompson cried as he described a conversation with his wife, Myra, about their future plans to move and pursue studies and careers in the church.

“She was my world, and she was gone,” he said.

Survivor Felicia Sanders, who gave powerful testimony during the guilt phase of Roof’s trial, wrapped up prosecutors’ case last Wednesday, talking about her creative 26-year-old son, the youngest victim, and his commitment to his faith and Emanuel.

“That night they were getting basic instruction before leaving Earth,” Sanders said. “I did not know that was going to be the life of them.”

Attorney General Loretta Lynch issued the following statement.

“On June 17, 2015, Dylann Storm Roof sought out and opened fire on African-American parishioners engaged in worship and bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. He did so because of their race. And he did so to interfere with their peaceful exercise of religion. The victims in the case led lives as compassionate civic and religious leaders; devoted public servants and teachers; and beloved family members and friends. They include a young man in the bloom of youth and an 87-year-old grandmother who still sang in the church choir. We remember those who have suffered, and especially those that lost their lives: Cynthia Graham Hurd, 54; Susie Jackson, 87; Ethel Lance, 70; Rev. DePayne Middleton Doctor, 49; Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41; Tywanza Sanders, 26; Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74; Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45; and Myra Thompson, 59.

“Today, a jury of his peers considered the actions Roof took on that fateful day, and they rendered a verdict that will hold him accountable for his choices.

“No verdict can bring back the nine we lost that day at Mother Emanuel. And no verdict can heal the wounds of the five church members who survived the attack or the souls of those who lost loved ones to Roof’s callous hand. But we hope that the completion of the prosecution provides the people of Charleston – and the people of our nation – with a measure of closure. We thank the jurors for their service, the people of Charleston for their strength and support, and the law enforcement community in South Carolina and throughout the country for their vital work on this case.”

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