Mass murderer Dylann Roof will represent himself when he is sentenced for the hate crime slayings of African-American churchgoers, who were gunned down in a Bible study.
Roof will be confronted by the families of his victims, and he faces the death penalty. The sentencing is expected to commence on the morning of Wednesday, January 4 with Roof acting as his own lawyer.
That means he will get to present an opening and closing statement in court.
The church shootings – perpetrated by Roof because he wanted to start a race war – shocked the nation. Many people were greatly moved when, previously, family members of Roof’s victims forgave him publicly in court.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Roof Gave a Short Opening Statement in Which He Denied Being Mentally Ill
“The point is I’m not going to lie to you,” Roof said to jurors during his opening statement. “There’s nothing wrong with me psychologically.” He spent his time talking about his lawyers and mental health, not his crimes.
The Los Angeles Times reported that, if the jury opts for the death penalty, it will be the first time that sentence has been used in a federal hate crimes case.
The jury will be asked to choose between the death penalty and life in prison.
The crime was horrific; Roof shot each victim at least five times, and survivors hid under tables. Roof left parishioner Polly Sheppard alive “to tell people that the 22-year-old white man killed the nine black people as revenge because of crimes blacks had committed against whites and other racist beliefs,” reported the New York Post.
The 12-person jury must reach a unanimous decision for death to result.
2. Roof Was Allowed to Represent Himself During the Sentencing
After a January 2 hearing that was closed to the public and news media, Judge Richard Gergel found Roof competent to proceed to sentencing and act as his own lawyer. CNN reported that “Dr. James Ballenger of Charleston, a specialist in forensic psychiatry” examined Roof.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Roof plans to call no witnesses and present no defense, and objected to his court-appointed attorneys’ wishes that he argue for leniency based on mental illness.
CNN reported that the judge ordered that Roof “will not attempt to approach the jury, the witness stand, or the bench,” during the sentencing, which starts at 9:30 a.m. Roof had told the court he was “morally opposed” to psychology, calling it a “Jewish intervention,” reported the Times.
3. Roof Killed Nine Parishioners at a Church Bible Study From Racial Hatred
The mass slaying occurred at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on June 17, 2015 and shook the nation because of the racial motivation of the shooter, who targeted victims because they were black. A jury previously convicted Roof of the crimes, so the only question left is whether he will be sentenced to death.
Roof showed up at a Bible study, and shot and killed nine people with a pistol. According to CNN, “Roof carefully planned the killing, investigators said, and chose the church because he wanted to start a race war. Roof is white and all his victims were black.”
Roof’s roommate told ABC News that Roof was into “segregation” and wanted to start a “Civil War.” Despite the hatred, family members were able to show grace and forgiveness amidst their grief at a previous court hearing:
4. Roof Wrote in a Journal That He Was Not Sorry
Prosecutors showed jurors excerpts from a journal they say Roof wrote in his cell. In it, he wrote. “I am not sorry. I have not shed a tear for the innocent people I killed.”
The prosecutor said: “He killed them because of the colour of their skin. He killed them because they were less than people” in his mind.
Prosecutors planned to call 40 people to the stand, including family members of victims and an FBI agent, reported USA Today.
“Roof has said in court that he plans to deliver an opening,” reported USA Today.
According to USA Today, Roof has refused to allow his defense team to present psychologists during the sentencing.
5. Roof Grew Up in a Respected Family that Struggled With Divorce & Finances
Normally, at a sentencing, people also get to speak on behalf of the defendant. It’s not known whether Roof will call any such people.
Roof grew up in a “respected” family, reported the New York Times. His grandfather was a “well known lawyer,” but his parents divorced, and his mother was evicted after the family fell on hard times and his father lost his historic home renovation business, according to The Times.