Families and friends of the nine people killed at a black church by white supremacist Dylann Roof were divided about whether Roof, whom a jury sentenced to death Tuesday, should be killed.
"It's hard to say a person should live when nine others died,” said Melvin Graham, whose sister Cynthia Hurd died in the 2015 shooting. Still, Graham told the AP, he feels uncomfortable with ordering someone to die.
“I didn’t think the verdict would affect me the way it has; I haven’t stopped crying,” said Aja Risher, granddaughter of victim Ethel Lance, to the Washington Post. “But I’m so happy that their lives matter. It’s not just a terrible tragedy that happened. It renews my faith a little bit.”
The jury convicted Roof, 22, of all 33 federal charges he faced last month. Roof repeatedly admitted to killing his victims in the courtroom, and he told investigators that he targeted the church because he wanted to bring back segregation or start a race war.
Famously, at one of Roof’s first court date the families of the victims offered Roof their forgiveness, even through their sadness. And a University of South Carolina survey found that only 31 percent of black Carolinians wanted Roof to face a death sentence, while 64 percent of whites wanted the same.
“No verdict can bring back the nine we lost that day at Mother Emanuel,” said Loretta Lynch, the United States attorney general, in a statement. “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.”
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