Today, Dylann Roof was convicted of killing the nine Black church members during their Bible Study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church on June 17, 2015.
The federal jury found Roof guilty of all 33 counts and will reconvene next month to hear more testimony to decide if Roof should be sentenced to death. According to the Associated Press, as the verdict was read, Roof started ahead, like he did much of the trial. Family members held hands as the verdict was read and squeezed one another. One woman nodded every time the clerk read the word guilty.
22-year-old Roof told FBI agents that he killed those people because he wanted to bring back segregation and start a race war. Roof said he decided to carry out the killings after researching “Black on White crime” on the internet. He intentionally targeted the church because the people there would pose the least amount of danger to him.
Roof told the judge again on Thursday that he wanted to act as his own attorney during the penalty phase. He will also face the penalty trial in state court for the nine murder charges.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathan Williams attacked the fact that Roof called himself brave in his journal. He said the real bravery came from the victims who tried to stop him as he fired 77 bullets in the church.
“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.”
Roof’s defense attorney David Bruck tried to speak to Roof’s mental state and asked jurors to consider Roof’s history as a suicidal loner who didn’t understand the reality of what he’d done.
“This defendant chose to take their lives. He chose to break their bodies. But he does not get to choose who they were.”
The defense put up no witnesses but did present evidence about Roof’s psychological state.
In his closing argument, the prosecutor raised his voice, called Roof a cold, calculated killer and showed pictures of the crime scene alongside a picture of the individual when they were alive.
According to the Associated Press:
Those pictures included the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41, Emanuel AME’s pastor and a state senator; Myra Thompson, 59, who taught Bible study that night — the same night she was licensed to preach; Cynthia Hurd, 54, a librarian who stayed to support Thompson; Depayne Middleton-Doctor, 49, who friends said sang like an angel and was also license to preach the day of the shootings; Daniel “Dapper Dan” Simmons, 74, nicknamed for his shiny shoes and fine hats; Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45, a high school track coach heavily involved in the church’s youth programs; Ethel Lance, 70, the church sexton who kept the bathrooms and building immaculately clean; Susie Jackson, 87, who sang in the choir and sent generations through the church; and Tywanza Sanders, 26, Jackson’s nephew and an aspiring poet who wanted to work with children.
Felicia Sanders, a survivor of the shooting, refused to say whether or not she wanted Roof put to death. But she did say that he was a coward for refusing to look at her as she testified.
Sanders said that she plans to honor the memories of her friends by smiling. “I wear a smile, because if you look at the pictures of all nine, they’re smiling.”
Veronica Wells is the culture editor at MadameNoire.com. She is also the author of “Bettah Days.” You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter @VDubShrug.