Domestic terrorist Dylann Roof has been convicted in the chilling attack on nine black church members.
According to published reports, Thursday (Dec 15) jurors reached the decision to convict Roof of 33 counts of first-degree murder for the racially motivated killings of the nine parishioners who were shot to death last year during a Bible study, affirming the prosecution’s portrayal of a young white man who hoped the slayings would start a race war or bring back segregation.
In his confession to the FBI, the gunman said he carried out the killings after researching “black on white crime” on the internet. He said he chose a church because that setting posed little danger to him.
As the decision was read, Roof stood emotionless, reported Alexandra Olgin of South Carolina Public Radio, who was in the courtroom. The charges included murder, attempted murder, damage to religious property, obstruction of religious belief and weapons charges.
According to the Associated Press, in closing arguments, Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathan Williams mocked Roof for calling himself brave in his hate-filled journal and during his confession, saying the real bravery came from the victims who tried to stop him as he fired 77 bullets at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church. The church Roof told FBI agents he picked Mother Emanuel because of its historic significance in the black community. The church is the oldest in the South and one of its founders Denmark Vesey led a failed 1822 slave rebellion that drove the church underground.
“Those people couldn’t see the hatred in his heart any more than they could see the .45-caliber handgun and the eight magazines concealed around his waist,” Williams said.
Defense lawyer David Bruck put up no witnesses and conceded Roof committed the murders, but he asked jurors to look beyond the criminal act and see what caused him to become so full of hatred, referring to him a suicidal loner who never grasped the gravity of what he did. Bruck also claimed Roof was just imitating what he saw online and believed he had to give his life to “a fight to the death between white people and black people that only he” could see and act on.
After seven days of testimony, Roof was convicted of all 33 counts, including federal hate crimes and obstruction of religion. Jurors will reconvene on January 3 to hear more testimony and decide whether Roof gets the death penalty or life in prison.