Justice Department will seek death penalty against Charleston shooter

Dylann Roof, who shot and killed 9 people at an AME church in Charleston, South Carolina last year, will face the death penalty in his federal trial. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the decision Tuesday on the DOJ’s website:

Following the department’s rigorous review process to thoroughly consider all relevant factual and legal issues, I have determined that the Justice Department will seek the death penalty.  The nature of the alleged crime and the resulting harm compelled this decision.

The DOJ has approved the death penalty in only about 500 cases in the past 30 years. In this case the approval is also redundant since the state of South Carolina has already said it will apply the death penalty if Roof in convicted. The Post and Courier reports that having the state and the federal government compete to prosecute a death penalty case is unprecedented:

It’s unprecedented for two death penalty cases to proceed through the separate court systems, he said. State and federal prosecutors typically agree on which should take a back seat. That happened when federal authorities were the first to prosecute Terry Nichols, an accomplice in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. The federal trial ended with a life sentence, and a state proceeding ended years later with the same outcome.

“It’s remarkable that they have not worked that out in (Roof’s) case,” Adams said. “This is the first case where you’re going to have competing capital prosecutions.”

An attorney for three of the victims tells the Post and Courier, “Really, I think the families have mixed emotions about the death penalty. But if it’s ever going to be given, this case certainly calls for it.”

Before his attack, Roof published a manifesto online which expressed his hatred toward black people and concluded with the need to move beyond talk and “take it to the real world.” Roof walked in to the Emanuel AME church in Charleston on June 17, 2015. He joined a Bible study at the church for an hour and then opened fire on the people he had been sitting with, killing 9 and wounding one more.

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