Roof guilty of all counts in S.C. church slaughter
Same jury will reconvene next month to consider the death penalty
charleston, s.c.» Dylann Roof was convicted Thursday in the chilling slaughter of nine black church members who had welcomed him to their Bible study, a devastating crime in a country embroiled in racial tension.
The same federal jury that found Roof guilty of all 33 counts will reconvene next month to hear more testimony and weigh whether to sentence him to death. As the verdict was read, Roof just stared ahead, much as he did the entire trial.
Family members of victims held hands and squeezed one another’s arms. One woman nodded her head every time the clerk said “guilty.”
Roof, 22, told FBI agents that, with the slayings, he wanted to bring back segregation or perhaps start a race war. Instead, the biggest change to emerge from the June 17, 2015, killings was the removal of the Confederate flag from the Statehouse, where it had flown for 50 years over the Capitol or on the grounds. Roof appeared with the flag in several photos in a racist manifesto.
The shooting happened just months after Walter Scott, an unarmed black man, was killed by white police Officer Michael Slager when he fled a traffic stop in North Charleston. Police shootings around the country have heightened tensions between black communities and the law enforcement agencies that patrol them, sometimes resulting in protests and riots.
In Roof ’s confession to the FBI, the gunman said he carried out the killings after researching “black-on-white crime” on the internet. He said he chose a church because that setting posed little danger to him.
The defense put up no witnesses during the seven-day trial. It tried to present evidence about Roof’s mental state, but the judge ruled that it did not have anything to do with Roof ’s guilt or innocence.
Roof told the judge again that he wanted to act as his own attorney during the penalty phase. He also will face a death penalty trial in state court on nine murder charges.