Well, that was quick. It took all of three hours for a Charleston jury to come back with a death penalty verdict for Dylann Roof. (Fox News)
A federal jury Tuesday sentenced Dylann Roof to death for killing nine black church members in Charleston, S.C. in a racially motivated attack in 2015.
Roof, who is white, faced either life in prison or execution for the slayings on June 17, 2015. The Justice Department said he is the first person to get the death penalty for federal hate crimes.
The jury reached the unanimous decision after about three hours of deliberations.
In his closing argument on Tuesday, Roof denied that he was filled with hatred.
The sentencing phase of Dylann Roof’s mass murder trial went to the jury and they surprised me with the rapid decision. Perhaps most of the reason for that was the “defense” that Roof offered for himself in the sentencing phase. Much like the rest of his defense, Roof’s portion of it was quite short and to the point. While the prosecution took a couple of days and called multiple witnesses to convince the jurors that Roof deserved to die, Roof called no one to the stand on his behalf and gave closing remarks which lasted barely seven minutes. But in those seven minutes he seemed to cement whatever passes for a legacy in his twisted mind. If I were forced to say something positive about Roof (or at least not blatantly negative) it would be that he’s at least consistent if nothing else.
We have a few excerpts from his comments and they seem to tell the entire story. If Roof had a “strategy” in all of this, it was too clever for me to suss out. (NY Daily News)
In convoluted remarks to the jury lasting around seven minutes, Roof expressed no regret for killing nine black worshipers at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston in June 2015.
“I felt like I had to do it, and I still feel like I had to do it,” Roof said, according to The State newspaper.
He then launched into a discussion about the nature of hatred — denying that he hated black people, but instead “what black people do.”
How you look into the eyes of the jury members who just finished hearing the tearful tales of the families of the fallen and say, “I still feel like I had to do it” is a mystery to me, but it demonstrates a lack of repentance cast in stone. For one fleeting moment it seemed as if he was trying to argue that he wasn’t actually a racist. However, saying you hate what black people do sort of deflates any arguments you might be making in insisting you don’t hate black people in general.
Getting back to the strategy question, I kept wondering if there was some set of gears in Roof’s mind which were spinning away and somehow thinking that this would cause at least one member to spare his life. This next section seemed to put that to rest. (Emphasis added)
He told the jury that only one member of the 12-person panel had to dissent in imposing a death sentence, granting him life in prison.
“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 would do anything,” Roof said.
Some of the commentary I’d heard on cable news today indicated that at least some observers believed that Roof had sealed his fate. The door was open for him to appeal to the better angels in at least some of the jurors but he willingly slammed it shut. Until the verdict was returned, I’ll confess that I remained unsure.
I’m not saying that Dylann Roof is some sort of legal savant who had cooked up a scheme too brilliant for us to recognize. That’s far from the case. The only reason that I thought the outcome was still uncertain was that the jury is composed of a dozen very real human beings. Yes, they may have gone on the record during voir dire saying that they weren’t fundamentally opposed to imposing the death penalty if it were justified, but for most normal people that’s a question which can only be answered in the abstract during such a process. Today they sat in the jury room debating their decision and this was where the rubber meets the road. It was no longer theoretical for them. If they cast a vote to send Roof to meet his maker there’s no taking that back. They would be condemning another human being, no matter how despicable he may be, to die.
I was left to wonder if all twelve of them would be able to do it. Could you? I’m pretty sure I could, but then I’ve never been put in that situation. Roof is an example of that thankfully rare creature who has it in him to take a life. Odds are that the members of the jury were not. Honestly, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see them deadlock or at least take far longer than this to decide.
As it is, the story has come to a close (except for the appeals). Sadly, this tale won’t reach its final conclusion for years… probably more than a decade. There are more than 200 people currently on death row in the state and Roof will be joining them in the parade. In the meantime the Supreme Court will probably hear new challenges to the constitutionality of the death penalty. For all we know it may be overturned and Roof’s sentence will be commuted. But for the moment, justice has been served. Good riddance to the monster. He got what he deserved.