On Thursday, self-declared white supremacist Dylann Roof was convicted in federal court for the 2015 Charleston church massacre. The jury, which included nine white people and three black people, deliberated for two hours before finding him guilty on all 33 charges. This includes the nine racially-motivated slayings of parishioners at the Mother Emanuel Church.
During the trial, prosecutors presented Roof’s manifesto and videotaped confession, and they reviewed how he performed internet research of historically black churches before settling upon his target. A survivor of the massacre, Polly Sheppard, delivered chilling testimony of how Roof stormed the church. After he finished firing, he asked her, “Did I shoot you yet?” When she replied that he had not, Roof told her, “I need you to tell the story.”
The New York Times provides a concise roundup of the charges:
The jury convicted Mr. Roof of nine counts of hate crimes resulting in death, three counts of hate crimes involving an attempt to kill (there were three survivors), nine counts of obstructing the exercise of religion resulting in death, three counts of that charge with an attempt to kill, and nine counts of using a firearm to commit murder during a crime of violence.
The next phase of the trial is scheduled to begin on Jan 3, when jurors will consider the death penalty. Roof’s attorneys had previously argued that the punishment is unconstitutional, although he later fired these lawyers and asked them to return until the sentencing begins. His mental state will be a central point of consideration during sentencing. Although a judge deemed him competent to stand trial, he laughed during his confession.
Roof purchased his gun through an FBI loophole. He also faces murder charges in a state trial, which will take place in early 2017.