'I Still Feel Like I Had To Do it': Dylann Roof Gets Death Penalty For Charleston Church Massacre


State senator Gerald Malloy (R), testifies in this court sketch at the trial of Dylann Roof.Reuters

Dylann Roof has been sentenced to death by federal jury in South Carolina, for the massacre of nine people at a Charleston church.

Roof, 22, a self-avowed white supremacist told the jury yesterday, "I still feel like I had to it."

The jury who elected for the death penalty for Roof were the same 12-member jury who in December charged Roof with 33 federal offences for the massacre, including murder and hate crimes. Roof is the first person in US history to face the death penalty for a federal hate crime.

Nine black people were killed in the massacre at Emanuel AME church in Charleston, on June 17 2015. Roof had been welcomed into the church's Bible study, but opened fire when the group closed their eyes for a final prayer.

Assistant US attorney Jay Richardson said of the church in his closing argument: "They welcomed a 13th person that night ... with a kind word, a Bible, a handout and a chair. He had come with a hateful heart and a Glock .45." The Guardian reported her saying.

Roof's trial lasted no more than 3 hours, and his statement to the jury no more than 5 minutes. Roof did not protest against the death penalty, saying, "I have a right to ask you to give me a life sentence, but I'm not sure what good that will do anyone."

He reportedly showed no emotion, and no remorse for his actions, in his statement: "Anyone, including the prosecution, who thinks I am filled with hate has no idea what real hate is," local source The Post and Courier reported Roof saying.

"I think it's safe to say that someone in their right mind wouldn't go into a church and kill people," he said. "You might remember in my confession to the FBI, I told them I had to do it. Obviously, that isn't true because I didn't have to do it. I didn't have to do anything. But what I meant when I said that was I felt like I had to do that. And I still feel like I had to do it," he said.

Roof did not explain the motive for his crimes, though in his confession to the FBI had said that he hoped to bring back segregation or start a race war.

US Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who authorised the death penalty sentence, said that the verdict was just: "No verdict can bring back the nine we lost that day at Mother Emanuel," she said. "And no verdict can heal the wounds of the five church members who survived the attack or the souls of those who lost loved ones to Roof's callous hand. But we hope that the completion of the prosecution provides the people of Charleston – and the people of our nation – with a measure of closure."

"He decided the day, the hour and the moment that my sister was going to die, and now someone is going to do the same for him," Melvin Graham, brother of shooting victim Cynthia Hurd, 54, said outside the federal courthouse in downtown Charleston.

Roof's family, who did not attend the trial, also issued a statement. "We will always love Dylann," it said. "We will struggle as long as we live to understand why he committed this horrible attack, which caused so much pain to so many good people. We wish to express the grief we feel for the victims of his crimes, and our sympathy to the many families he has hurt."

A formal sentence will take place later today, when loved ones of victims will have the opportunity to address Roof.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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