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Dylann Roof WILL be executed as death penalty is upheld over Charleston massacre

A federal appeals court has upheld the conviction and sentence of Dylann Roof, who murdered nine members of a black South Carolina church congregation in 2015.

A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Roof’s conviction and sentence in the shootings at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.

In his appeal, Roof’s attorneys argued that he was wrongly allowed to represent himself during sentencing, a critical phase of his trial.

Roof, who was 21 at the time, opened fire during the closing prayer of a Bible study at the church, firing dozens of bullets at the congregation.

DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Myrah Thompson, Ethel Lance, Susie Jackson, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Daniel Simmons, Clementa Pinckney and Cynthia Hurd were all killed by Roof on June 17, 2015.

DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Myrah Thompson, Ethel Lance, Susie Jackson, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Daniel Simmons, Clementa Pinckney and Cynthia Hurd were all killed by Roof on June 17, 2015

 

DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Myrah Thompson, Ethel Lance, Susie Jackson, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Daniel Simmons, Clementa Pinckney and Cynthia Hurd were all killed by Roof on June 17, 2015

Polly Sheppard, 72, said Roof, who is now 27, spared her so she could ‘tell the story’. She and Felicia Sanders, another survivor, testified against him during the trial.

In 2017, Roof became the first person in the U.S. sentenced to death for a federal hate crime.

A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Roof's conviction and sentence in the shootings at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston

 

A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Roof’s conviction and sentence in the shootings at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston

In 2021, Roof and his legal team began making his appellate argument that his conviction and death sentence should be overturned.

In a lengthy brief, Roof’s attorneys argue that an appellate court should vacate Roof’s convictions and death sentence, or remand his case to court for a ‘proper competency evaluation.’

‘The federal trial that resulted in his death sentence departed so far from the standard required when the government seeks the ultimate price that it cannot be affirmed,’ they wrote, arguing that their client’s mental illness should have prevented him from serving as his own attorney during a portion of the trial, and also being sent to federal death row.

Roof successfully prevented jurors from hearing evidence about his mental health, ‘under the delusion,’ his attorneys argued, that ‘he would be rescued from prison by white nationalists – but only, bizarrely, if he kept his mental impairments out of the public record.’

Roof’s lawyers said his convictions and death sentence should be vacated or his case should be sent back to court for a ‘proper competency evaluation.’

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel held two competency hearings for Roof: one before the start of his trial, and one before its sentencing phase, to determine if Roof could act as his own attorney for that portion of the trial.

In that part of the trial, the self-avowed white supremacist neither fought for his life nor explained his actions, saying only that ‘anyone who hates anything in their mind has a good reason for it.’

This, his attorneys wrote, resulted in ‘a complete breakdown’ of any possible defense, with jurors being ‘left in the dark’ about any details from Roof’s past that could have possibly been used to mitigate the government’s ‘inflammatory case for death.’

The 4th Circuit found that the trial judge did not commit an error when he found Roof was competent to stand trial and issued a scathing rebuke of Roof’s crimes.

The judges wrote: ‘Dylann Roof murdered African Americans at their church, during their Bible-study and worship. They had welcomed him. He slaughtered them.

‘He did so with the express intent of terrorizing not just his immediate victims at the historically important Mother Emanuel Church, but as many similar people as would hear of the mass murder,’ the panel wrote in its ruling.

Dylann Roof, who is on federal death row for the slayings of nine members of a black South Carolina congregation, had argued his conviction and death sentence should be overturned. He is pictured at a hearing in 2015

Dylann Roof, who is on federal death row for the slayings of nine members of a black South Carolina congregation, had argued his conviction and death sentence should be overturned. He is pictured at a hearing in 2015

Law enforcement officials are pictured outsider the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church after the mass shooting at the church in June 2015

 

Law enforcement officials are pictured outsider the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church after the mass shooting at the church in June 2015

 

People pay their respects in front of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in June 2015

‘No cold record or careful parsing of statutes and precedents can capture the full horror of what Roof did. His crimes qualify him for the harshest penalty that a just society can impose.’

All of the judges in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers South Carolina, recused themselves from hearing Roof´s appeal; one of their own, Judge Jay Richardson, prosecuted Roof´s case as an assistant U.S. Attorney. The panel that heard arguments in May and issued the ruling on Wednesday was comprised of judges from several other appellate circuits.

A jury took just two hours to convict him of 33 federal crimes after a week-long trial in December 2016 in which he was described as a suicidal loner who viewed the nine black parishioners he killed as ‘animals’.

After he was given nine consecutive life sentences, Solicitor Scarlett Wilson – who had also been pursuing the death penalty – called the deal ‘an insurance policy for the federal conviction,’ ensuring that Roof would spend the rest of his life in prison, should the federal sentence not stand.

Wilson also said that she felt more confident a federal death sentence would be carried out under the newly minted Trump administration than it would have been under a Democratic one.

At the time, there was anticipation that then-President Donald Trump might swiftly resume federal executions, following cessation of the practice under several several previous administrations.

The moment police capture and arrest Dylann Roof

Trump´s decision to reinstate federal executions didn´t come until 2020, however, when his Justice Department ended a 17-year hiatus, going on to oversee a total of 13 federal executions.

Due to his remaining appeals, Roof´s case was not eligible for execution at that time.

Although President Joe Biden – who as a candidate said he´d work to end federal executions – hasn´t spoken publicly about capital punishment in office, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in March that he continues to have ‘grave concerns’ about it.

The president could instruct his Justice Department not to carry out executions during his presidency.

Roof could now file what´s known as a 2255 appeal, or a request that the trial court review the constitutionality of his conviction and sentence.

He could also petition the U.S. Supreme Court or seek a presidential pardon.

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