Charleston killer sen­tenced, but sev­eral is­sues still to be re­solved

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - NATIONAL & WORLD -

By The As­so­ci­ated Press

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Dy­lann Roof’s death sen­tence this week for killing nine black church mem­bers ends one chap­ter in his case, but it’s far from over. Roof has in­di­cated he will ap­peal his fed­eral pun­ish­ment and there are nine mur­der charges await­ing in state court. Mon­u­ments and memo­ri­als to those slain at Emanuel African Methodist Epis­co­pal Church in June 2015 are also planned.

AN­OTHER TRIAL? State pros­e­cu­tors charged Roof with nine counts of mur­der. Prose­cu­tor Scar­lett Wil­son de­clared her in­ten­tion to seek the death penalty months be­fore fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors did.

But the feds jumped to the front of the line, even af­ter Wil­son asked a judge to let her go first. The state trial was sup­posed to start Tues­day, but was in­def­i­nitely post­poned be­cause of the fed­eral trial. Wil­son hasn’t dis­cussed the case at length in re­cent months and didn’t re­turn mes­sages this week from The As­so­ci­ated Press.

If a South Carolina jury sen­tences Roof to death, he would be the only per­son fac­ing a fed­eral death sen­tence and a state death sen­tence, ac­cord­ing to the Death Penalty In­for­ma­tion Cen­ter. There are sev­eral peo­ple who have been sen­tenced to death in two states for sep­a­rate crimes, the cen­ter said.

FED­ERAL AP­PEALS: There will likely be ap­peals for years to come, in part be­cause Roof was sen­tenced to die. Im­me­di­ately af­ter he was sen­tenced Tues­day, Roof asked for new lawyers to file his pa­per­work and was de­nied. He in­di­cated he plans to fight his con­vic­tion and has a month to file an ap­peal.

Roof’s lawyers have con­sis­tently pointed out he was will­ing to plead guilty if the death penalty was taken off the ta­ble, which would have se­verely lim­ited any ap­peals.

FAM­ILY RE­AC­TION: Most fam­ily mem­bers of vic­tims said they were so wrapped up in the emo­tion­ally drain­ing fed­eral trial that they haven’t had any chance to be­gin think­ing about the pos­si­bil­ity of an­other ex­haust­ing month or more in a court­room.

“This has torn me up. I don’t know if I can do it again,” said Melvin Gra­ham, brother of vic­tim Cyn­thia Hurd. But Gra­ham said he will stand be­hind the state prose­cu­tor if she moves for­ward be­cause that is what his sis­ter would want.

Daniel Sim­mons Jr., whose fa­ther was killed at the church, said his fam­ily was sat­is­fied with the fed­eral trial, but he wants to talk to Wil­son about her plans be­fore de­cid­ing how he feels about a sec­ond trial.

“At this present, we would like to just en­joy where we are and be thank­ful that the Depart­ment of Jus­tice re­ally did an awe­some job,” he said.

FED­ERAL DEATH ROW: Roof isn’t head­ing to fed­eral death row yet. As­sis­tant U.S. At­tor­ney Jay Richard­son said Wed­nes­day that Roof will likely stay in the Charleston County jail un­til his state charges are re­solved.

Roof is the 63rd in­mate sent to fed­eral death row, ac­cord­ing to the Death Penalty In­for­ma­tion Cen­ter. But in the past 50 years, the fed­eral govern­ment has ex­e­cuted just three peo­ple — in­clud­ing Ok­la­homa City bomber Ti­mothy McVeigh — and none since 2003.

Even if a South Carolina jury con­victs Roof and sen­tences him to death, there is no guar­an­tee of a swift sen­tence. The state has ex­e­cuted 43 peo­ple since 1985, but none in the past five years. And the pris­ons di­rec­tor in South Carolina has said the state’s drugs needed to carry out lethal in­jec­tions have ex­pired and it has been un­able to buy a new sup­ply.

MEMO­RI­ALS: There has been talk of sev­eral dif­fer­ent mon­u­ments in Charleston to honor the nine peo­ple killed and the three who sur­vived the mas­sacre at Emanuel AME, but no plans have been fi­nal­ized.

The shoot­ing did boost in­ter­est in an ex­pan­sive, high-pro­file African-Amer­i­can mu­seum in Charleston set to open in 2019 on the site where thou­sands of slaves stepped off boats onto Amer­i­can soil.


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