Convicted murderer Dylann Roof pled guilty to all state charges in the case against him for the 2015 shooting of nine black parishioners at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Roof had entered the church’s Bible study group, when he opened fire on the people who had welcomed him in. Roof is a self-professed white supremacist, who had outlined his plans for starting a race war to friends before the shooting.
During his federal trial, Roof submitted a “not guilty” plea, subjecting the friends and relatives of the people he killed to a lengthy trial. He was eventually convicted of all 33 charges, including hate crimes and obstruction of the practice of religion. NBC News reports that Roof chose to represent himself during the sentencing phase of his trial. In his closing argument, he told the jury, “I have the right to ask you to give me a life sentence, but I'm not sure what good it would do anyway," adding, "I still feel like I had to do it."
Roof was sentenced to death, and will begin a process of appeals after being transferred to federal prison. Prosecutors in the state case also sought the death penalty for Roof, but eventually accepted nine life sentences in exchange for his “guilty” plea, thus sparing those involved a second trial.
Before delivering the sentence, Judge J.C. Nicholson heard from members of AME one last time. Opinions on whether or not Roof should be executed vary amongst the parishioners, but most reference the strength of the church’s community during the difficult years since Roof attacked.
Pastor Eric Manning explained, “The impact at Mother Emanuel has been far reaching. We visit the crime scene every day."
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