Dylann Roof: What comes next for Charleston church shooter
CHARLESTON, South Carolina (CNN) — Dylann Roof will be formally sentenced Wednesday after being given the death penalty for the massacre of nine people at a historically black church in Charleston.
Roof will become the first federal hate crime defendant to be sentenced to death, a Justice Department spokesman said.
US District Judge Richard M. Gergel, who has presided over the trial, will hold the formal sentencing Wednesday, January 11, 2017 at 8:30 a.m. CT.
Roof who had chosen to represent himself during the penalty phase, has told the judge he wants to file a motion for new lawyers. Gergel said Roof can argue that on Wednesday but the judge is not inclined to let that happen.
Roof, an avowed white supremacist was convicted last month of federal murder and hate crimes charges. During the penalty phase, he cast his defense attorneys aside, telling jurors that he chose to represent himself to “prevent my lawyers from misrepresentation.”
On Tuesday, he made his own closing arguments to the jury, in which he neither apologized nor expressed remorse. Instead, he said he had no choice but to kill nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in June 2015.
“I felt like I had to do it, and I still do feel like I had to do it,” he said.
Roof, 22, also had suggested to jurors he’d like to be spared.
Prosecutors had urged jurors to sentence Roof to death, reminding them that he had sat with the church members for 40 minutes before opening fire. He pulled the trigger “more than 75 times … reloading seven times” as he stood over his victims, shooting them repeatedly, said Assistant US Attorney Jay Richardson.
Friends and relatives of the victims gave emotional testimony in court before Tuesday, some of them sobbing on the stand.
The jurors delivered a unanimous vote for the death penalty. Even with the jury’s decision, matters may be far from final.
Death penalty cases are notorious for their complexity, often spending years in appeals and processes.
A group of defense attorneys and others who worked on Roof’s behalf issued a statement, saying the death penalty decision means the case will not be over for a “very long time.”
A former prosecutor in South Carolina, Holman Gossett said it’s possible for Roof could ask for a new trial.
“He didn’t have any attorneys helping him in the penalty phase so he may make that motion after reflecting on it,” Gossett told CNN affiliate WSPA. “Then it would go through the process of automatic hearings with appellate courts to see if there’s any reason under the law that it should not stand legal grounds.”
Since the federal death penalty was reinstated in 1988 after a 16-year moratorium, three federal inmates have been executed in the United States. There are 63 federal prisoners awaiting execution.
And Roof’s court appearances may be far from over.
He is also set to be tried on state murder charges, and prosecutors have said they’ll also seek the death penalty in that case.