Dylann Roof, the racist gunman who murdered nine churchgoers at a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina, will be sentenced to death. The jury deliberated for about three hours before reaching a unanimous verdict Tuesday in the sentencing phase of Roof’s federal hate-crimes trial. According to the Associated Press, he is the first person convicted of a federal hate crime to receive the death penalty.
In December, Roof was convicted of all 33 federal charges, including hate crimes resulting in death, an unsurprising verdict given that Roof had previously confessed to the crimes. But the same jury, made up of nine white and three black people, had to decide whether he would face execution or life in prison in a case where Roof represented himself. Federal prosecutors sought the death penalty, portraying Roof as an unrepentant killer and avowed white supremacist and presenting harrowing testimony from survivors and friends and family of the victims.
Roof, who said in his opening statement that there was “nothing psychologically wrong with [him]” asked in closing arguments for the jury to spare his life, though he showed no remorse and reiterated to the jury that he felt he “had” to kill the nine black parishioners gathered for Bible study at the Emanual AME Church that night in June 2015. “In my confession to the FBI I told them that I had to do it, and obviously that’s not really true,” Roof told the jury in his closing argument. “I didn’t have to do anything. But what I meant when I said that was, I felt like I had to do it, and I still do feel like I had to do it.”
“From what I’ve been told, I have a right to ask you to give me a life sentence, but I’m not sure what good that will do anyway,” Roof continued. “But what I will say is only one of you has to disagree with the other jurors.”
Roof will be formally sentenced to death on Wednesday; it has been more than a decade since the government has executed one of its prisoners on federal death row.