Federal jurors sentenced Dylann Roof to death on Tuesday, Jan. 10, in Charleston, S.C., for the shooting attack that left nine worshipers at Mother Emanuel AME Church dead. The verdict came just hours after Roof told the crowded courtroom, “I felt like I had to do it, and I still feel like I had to do it.”
A 12-member jury panel – three African-Americans and nine whites – took less than three hours to unanimously decide that the 22-year-old self-professed white nationalist should be executed rather than spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole, the Charleston Post and Courier reported.
U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel, who presided over the high-profile case, scheduled a hearing for 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 11, to formally impose the death sentence. Friends and family members of the slain victims also will be allowed to address the young killer.
“Today, we had justice for my sister,” Melvin Graham, brother of shooting victim Cynthia Hurd, told reporters Monday. “This is a very hollow victory because my sister is still gone. I wish that this verdict could have brought her back. But what it can do is just send a message to those who feel the way he feels that this community will not tolerate it.”
Graham concluded by saying he wished mass killings, like the one that took his sister, would just stop.
Kevin Singleton, who lost his mother, Myra Thompson, in the shooting, rejoiced at the jury’s verdict and offered harsh words to his mother’s killer.
“I would like for that to marinate and travel to the nervous system of that coward,” Singelton said. “Justice was served.”
CNN reported that Roof sat stone-faced as the jury read its verdict, showing little emotion. Just last month, that same jury found him guilty of 33 federal crimes stemming from the deadly attack.
Shortly after the June 2015 shooting that shook the city of Charleston to its core, Roof reportedly told investigators he was trying to incite a race war. Interrogation videos of the baby-faced killer showed him laughing as he explained to investigators how he executed the nine churchgoers.
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“I would like to make it crystal clear, I don’t regret what I did,” Roof wrote in a jailhouse journal, which prosecutors presented as evidence in the month-and-a-half-long trial. “I am not sorry.”
Roof, who was allowed to represent himself during the sentencing phase of his trial, decided not to call any witnesses or present any evidence in his defense, though doing so could have potentially spared his life. During his closing arguments on Tuesday, Roof passed on the chance to argue for his life, saying he wasn’t “sure what good it would do” to sentence him to life behind bars.
Following the verdict, members of the gunman’s defense team offered their sympathies to the families and friends of the victims “so grievously hurt by Dylann Roof’s actions.” They also expressed regret that Roof potentially could appeal, which would make the case drag on for “a very long time.”
“We are sorry that, despite our best efforts, the legal proceedings have shed so little light on the reasons for this tragedy,” the attorneys said in a statement.
Roof’s family also expressed sympathy for the families of the victims but said they would always love their son. Still, they said they didn’t understand why he would commit such a terrible attack on a group of innocent people.
“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,” the family said in a statement.
Roof still faces a separate trial by the state of South Carolina, where prosecutors there said they’re also seeking the death penalty. That trial is expected to begin later this year.