Charleston (United States) (AFP) – A US jury on Tuesday condemned self-described white supremacist Dylann Roof to death over the massacre of nine black worshippers in a South Carolina church in June 2015 — a crime that shocked the nation.
Roof, 22, was convicted last month of 33 federal charges — including hate crimes resulting in death — in connection with the shooting spree at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston.
Roof showed little reaction to the decision, delivered just hours after the 12-member jury retired to deliberate, though he occasionally seemed to be slightly smiling.
Federal judge Richard Gergel will formally deliver Roof’s sentence on Wednesday morning at the Charleston courthouse. The verdict unanimously reached by the jury is binding.
“I still feel like I had to do it,” Roof told jurors earlier in a semi-coherent closing argument.
Roof represented himself in the sentencing phase of the trial, against the advice of his lawyers and the judge. He called no witnesses and offered no evidence for the jury to consider.
After the jury offered its sentencing verdict, Roof asked for new attorneys so he could move for a retrial, but Gergel told him to provide specific reasons for his request on Wednesday.
Relatives of the victims will be invited to speak at Wednesday’s hearing.
“Nineteen months ago, a heartless murderer attempted to start a race war. He believed the damage his racist hands wrought would undo Charleston, South Carolina and maybe even the nation,” said Tim Scott, one of South Carolina’s two senators.
“Today that man was rightly sentenced to death,” said Scott, who is black.