Dylann Roof’s Federal Trial Begins
On June 17, 2015, Dylann Roof went to the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina where they were holding Bible Study. He shot and killed 9 people. A manhunt resulted, and Roof was found and arrested in North Carolina. He confessed to the killings.
Roof is an avowed White supremacist who perceived that he had to save the White race from Blacks. He wanted to start a race war. Roof waited until parishioners closed their eyes to pray before firing his Glock .45-caliber pistol. When it was over, Roof had fired more than 70 shots, striking his victims 60 times.
The 22-year old is charged with 12 federal counts of hate crimes, 12 counts of obstructing the exercise of religion, and 9 counts of firearm violations. Federal prosecutors seek the death penalty.
Discarding empty magazines and reloading his weapon, Roof found survivor Polly Sheppard hiding as she prayed. Roof told her to shut up, before asking if she had been shot. Sheppard was then told that she would be left alive so that she could tell others what had occurred. She will likely serve as the final witness for the prosecution in the guilt phase of the trial.
Since he was arrested, there have been numerous pleadings and hearings in the case. To report on each one would be tedious. The most recent included a motion to find Roof mentally incompetent to stand trial. The court denied that motion. The LA Times reports that Judge Gergel found Roof capable of standing trial on the basis that he completed the 9th grade and had an “extremely high IQ” and was able to understand courtroom proceedings. A legal expert however, stated that there is a clear difference between intellectual ability and judgment.
It is not known what type of mental illness or emotional disturbance Roof may or may not have because the hearings were closed to the public.
Roof’s attorneys offered to change Roof’s plea to guilty in exchange for a sentence of life in prison without parole. Federal prosecutors turned down the offer.
Just before jury selection, Roof motioned the judge to release his attorneys. He wanted to represent himself. The judge granted Roof’s motion. After jury selection, Roof asked the judge to rehire his attorneys, but he wants to represent himself during the penalty phase. The judge granted his motion.
U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel ruled that Roof’s parents, grandmother and grandfather (who is a lawyer) can remain in the courtroom during the trial even though they’re potential witnesses. All other witnesses must stay out until they testify.
Federal prosecutors anticipate resting their case in 7 days.
Trial began on December 7, 2016. The jury consists of 2 Black women, 8 White women, 1 White man, and 1 Black man. Six alternatives were chosen; 3 Whites; 2 Blacks; and 1 who identifies as “other”
Federal courts do not allow cameras in the courtrooms, so there will be no live streams or videos of the trial.
Opening Statements and First Day of Trial
Opening statement were made yesterday. As reported by PBS.org, Assistant U.S. Attorney Julius Richardson said that Roof planned to kill the Black worshippers months in advance.
“He chose to execute nine good, innocent men and women, and he chose to do so out of a callous hatred of the color of their skin.”
Charleston City Paper reports that Attorney Richardson first detailed the lives and personalities of the nine victims. Photos of each victim were placed on a screen in the courtroom:
“As the group of 12 joined together that night, they welcomed a 13th — Dylann Roof,” Richardson told the jury before saying that to those in the church Roof seemed harmless as he was offered a seat next to the late Rev. Clementa Pinckney.
According to the prosecution, Roof had carefully planned his attack, researching the church, making several visits to Charleston, and even stopping to ask an African-American parishioner Emanuel AME’s hours of service prior to the shooting.
Prosecutors plan to show Roof’s videotaped confession recorded after he was apprehended in North Carolina following the shooting. Richardson told the jury that the confession will include not only a detailed account of what happened on the night of the shooting, but Roof’s explanation of what motivated his “racial retribution for perceived offenses against the white race.”
Roof’s court appointed attorney, David Bruck, stated that the facts of the crime are not in dispute. He focused instead on motivation, saying “You will see a crime that is driven by fear.”
Felicia Sanders survived. She was the first witness to testify and stated that the Rev. Clementa Pinckney invited Roof to take a seat next to him and handed him a Bible.
” There were so many shots. Seventy-seven shots in that room from someone we thought was looking for the Lord.”
Sanders said she played dead as the blood of her dying son, Tywanza Sanders, 26, and her aunt, Susie Jackson, 87, pooled around her. Roof shot Felicia’s son 5 times.
The New York Times reports that police officers and other emergency workers testified Wednesday of finding an unimaginable scene. Footage from a police sergeant’s body camera showed them trying to determine the number of casualties.
“We’ve got one, two, three, four, five, five, six, seven, eight, make that eight,” one officer counted as he surveyed the room.”
Updates of the trial will be posted in the comment section below.
(In referencing the mistrial in Charleston last week , the host makes a mistake in the video below saying that Michael Slager was charged with the murder of Keith Lamont Scott. Slager was charged with the murder of Walter Scott.)
Posted on 12/08/2016, in AME shootings, Cases, Trial Videos and tagged Charleston, Dylann Roof, Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, murder, opening statements, South Carolina, trial. Bookmark the permalink. 67 Comments.