A US jury on Tuesday sentenced Dylann Roof, the self-described white supremacist who gunned down nine black worshippers in a South Carolina church, to death over the June 2015 massacre.
Roof, 22, was convicted last month of 33 federal charges — including hate crimes resulting in death — in connection with the carnage at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston.
A Bible study group at “Mother Emanuel,” which had welcomed Roof, was just beginning its closing prayer when the self-avowed Nazi and Ku Klux Klan sympathizer opened fire, killing nine people ranging in age from 26 to 87.
The slayings shocked the nation, and once again exposed the deep divides in America over race and access to guns.
Roof showed little reaction to the sentencing verdict delivered in federal court just hours after the 12-member jury retired to deliberate, though he occasionally seemed to be slightly smiling.
“I still feel like I had to do it,” he told jurors earlier in a semi-coherent closing argument.
Roof represented himself in the sentencing phase of the trial, against the advice of his lawyers and the judge.
– ‘Not one tear’ –
Earlier, prosecutor Jay Richardson urged jurors to sentence Roof to death for “this cold, calculated, malicious killing.”
“Not one tear did he shed for those that he killed,” he said. “Unrepentant. No remorse.”
Richardson noted Roof only expressed sorrow that he put his parents through an emotional trial during which his mother suffered a heart attack after a survivor’s gripping testimony.
“He had sorrow for them. He had pity for himself. That he had lost his freedom. His ability to watch movies and drive a car,” he said.
“But his sadness was reserved for the little white children that have to live with African Americans.”
During the first phase of the trial, Roof exhibited no signs of remorse as survivors recounted the rampage in heart-rending detail.
A video of Roof’s chilling confession was shown to the jury.
“Somebody had to do something because black people are killing white people every day,” Roof said without emotion to the FBI special agent questioning him. “They rape 100 white people a day.”
In notes confiscated from Roof in prison in August 2015, he wrote that he was “not sorry.”
“I have not shed a tear for the innocent people I killed,” the notes said.
Roof’s lawyers had suggested their client was not mentally fit, but US District Judge Richard Gergel found Roof competent to stand trial — twice.
Capital punishment is only rarely meted out in federal cases, in part because violent crimes more typically are tried under state laws.
Federal authorities have executed only three inmates since 1976.