Jury Finds Dylann Roof Guilty In S.C. Church Shooting
The jury has yet to return a verdict on the remaining federal weapons charges.
The trial featured six days of testimony from 30 witnesses, including a recorded confession and excerpts from Roof’s journal, and painted a picture of a young man filled with racial hatred who spent months planning to murder black people.
Roof entered Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church in downtown Charleston and, for nearly an hour, sat among a dozen people at a bible study before opening fire during the worshippers’ final prayer. One witness, Felicia Sanders, described hiding under a table and “cowering with her 11-year-old granddaughter who was with her, and she described feeling the blood of her mortally-wounded son and aunt who were on either side of her,” as NPR’s Debbie Elliot reported.
Another witness, Polly Sheppard, told the jury Roof had stood over her with his gun, and asked her if she had been shot. When she said no, Roof told her, “I’m not going to. I’m going to leave you here to tell the story.”
Dylann was arrested the next day.
Less than 24 hours after the massacre, Dylann gave a two-hour taped interview to FBI agents, part of which was played for the jury. In it, Roof said of Sheppard, “I didn’t shoot her because she was, like, looking at me.” He also said, “I am guilty. We all know I’m guilty.”
Dylann Roof also explained at least some of his motives. He said he felt he “had to” commit the crime because “no one else was brave enough,” and explained to the agents that he believed white people “already are the second-class citizens.”
said he had been inspired after he searched on Google for the phrase “black on white crime” in reaction the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was black, by George Zimmerman.
“That was it,” Dylann Roof said.
Asked if he believed those he shot were bad people, Roof said almost incredulously, “They’re in church, they weren’t criminals or anything.”
Roof’s defense attorneys did not call any witnesses, and he said he did not want to testify. During closing arguments on Thursday, defense attorney David Bruck asked the jury to consider why Roof did what he did.
The Charleston Post and Courier reported on Bruck’s closing argument:
“12 ‘There is hatred all right, and certainly racism, but it goes a lot further than that,’ [Bruck] said. ” ‘Every bit of motivation came from things he saw on the internet. That’s it. … ‘He is simply regurgitating, in whole paragraphs, slogans and facts – bits and pieces of facts that he downloaded from the internet directly into his brain.’ ”
If the jury finds him guilty, the penalty phase of the trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 3. He has asked to represent himself in that portion of the trial, as the jury decides whether to sentence him to death.
Dylann Roof is also facing separate murder charges brought by the state of South Carolina, which is also seeking the death penalty. That trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 17.