Dylann Roof directly spoke to jurors for the first time Wednesday, giving a brief opening statement in the sentencing phase of his federal-hate crimes trial. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Roof, who was convicted on all 33 counts in his federal hate-crimes trial last month for murdering nine parishioners during a prayer meeting at a historic black church in Charleston in June 2015.
Roof, who is representing himself, confirmed to jurors that he wanted to do so to prevent his attorneys from using a mental-illness defense. “The point is I’m not going to lie to you,” he said. “There is nothing psychologically wrong with me.”
Federal prosecutors also delivered their opening argument to the jury, the same one that declared Roof guilty last month. In the statement, government lawyers read a journal Roof apparently kept after his arrest and while in prison, weeks after the massacre. Using Roof’s own words, prosecutors painted a chilling picture of a remorseless killer, eaten up with hate. “I would like to make it crystal clear, I do not regret what I did,” Roof wrote. “I am not sorry.”
Prosecutors also began calling witnesses, starting with Jennifer Pinckney, the widow of State Senator Clementa Pinckney, who was a pastor at the Emanuel AME Church. Jennifer was in another room of the church and survived the attack with her daughter. She heard the shooting from the other room, and testified about the unfolding events in excruciating detail.
Roof, at the close of her testimony, declined to cross-examine.