On January 10, 2017, Dylann Roof was sentenced to the death penalty for killing nine people in the 2015 Charleston Church Massacre. The jury is the same 12-member group that found Roof guilty of all murder charges in December. The death sentence was agreed upon by the jury after less than two hours of deliberation.
Roof was given time to present a final plea to the jury to spare his life. He spent most of his five-minute speech talking about hate and how he is not, as some people claim, “filled with hatred.” He concluded by saying, “From what I’ve been told, I have a right to ask to give me a life sentence. But I’m not sure what good that would do anyway.”
As this was a federal trial, Roof will appear in another trial by the state of South Carolina, where he also faces the death sentence. The date of this trial is still to be determined.
Dylann Roof’s goal on June 17, 2015, as he killed nine people at Emmanuel AME Church was to advance his white supremacist agenda. On Thursday, December 14, 2016, a jury found Roof guilty of what has become known as the Charleston Church Massacre.
After a short two hours of deliberations, the jury found 22-year-old Roof guilty. Roof’s attorney, David Bruck, did not offer any defense of his actions, stating everything the prosecutors were accusing Roof of was true. Although Bruck hinted at mental illness being a factor in Roof’s actions, the judge ruled this could not be used in his defense.
The sentencing phase of the trial is set to begin January 3, 2017, and will employ the same jury who gave Roof the guilty verdict. This jury will then decide whether Roof deserves the death penalty or a life sentence. In this later trial, mental illness will be taken into consideration.
Roof claimed to come to his racist conclusions about black people through the Internet, and did research on black churches before deciding the historic Emmanuel AME Church would be the target of his crime. Families of the nine victims were given the chance to speak to Roof during the trial. Their message was one of hurt and emotional turmoil, but also of forgiveness.
Despite being able to carry out his horrific act of murder, Roof’s actions had the opposite effect on the community than what he was hoping for. As a Daily News article points out, the Confederate flag that Roof used as a symbol of his hatred toward black people was taken down from the SC statehouse after 50 years of being displayed there. Black people and white people, on both sides of the political aisle, came together to see it taken down.
Additionally, churches of whites and blacks banded together to support the grieving church after Roof carried out his horrific act. Evangelicals across America responded by calling the incident “satanic” and called on the church to help quell the “contagion of hatred, racism and violence” in America.
Finally, President Obama gave what many have called one of the best speeches of his presidency. “For too long, we’ve been blind to the way past injustices continue to shape the present,” Obama said.
May the church be on the forefront of ushering in greater unity in our nation between races, political agendas and denominations. May we do what Jesus told us to do and turn the other cheek when unthinkable things like these happen.