CHARLESTON, S.C. — A jury has convicted Dylann Roof in the racially-motivated slayings of nine black church members in South Carolina.
The verdict was reached not long after deliberations began on Thursday.
About an hour into deliberations, the jury wanted to rehear part of Roof’s videotaped confession and sent a note to U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel asking to listen again to Roof being questioned and talking about how many people he might have killed.
Roof told FBI agents he killed about five people, and was later surprised when the agents told him nine people were shot and killed in June 2015 at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church.
Jurors heard from witnesses who testified Roof made multiple trips to Charleston in the months before the June 2015 attack at Emanuel AME Church that killed nine worshippers. They also heard from two survivors.
In a closing argument Thursday, defense attorney David Bruck conceded that Roof killed the victims and even praised the FBI investigation, but he also argued Roof was a suicidal, impressionable loner who never grasped the gravity of what he did. He asked jurors to consider what was going on in his head as he planned the killings.
The defense put up no witnesses. They tried to present evidence about his mental state, but the judge ruled it didn’t have anything to do with his guilt or innocence.
A prosecutor said Thursday that Roof was full of hate and “immense racial ignorance” when he carried out the attack. In his closing argument, assistant U.S. Attorney Nathan Williams mocked Roof for calling himself brave in his racist-filled journal and his confession to the FBI, saying the real bravery came from the victims who tried to stop him as he fired 77 bullets.
“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,” Williams said.
Williams’ 50-minute closing argument filled the court with tension. At times, the prosecutor raised his voice, saying Roof was a cold, calculated killer.
“Hatred had no place in that sanctuary,” the prosecution said in their closing argument, CBS Charleston affiliate WCSC reported. “But hatred came to those tables just the same.”
Roof said in his confession, a journal found in his car and a statement he posted online that he wanted his killings to lead to a return of segregation or perhaps a race war. Instead, the single biggest change to come from the June 17 violence was the removal of the Confederate flag from in front of the South Carolina Statehouse after it spent 50 years flying over the capitol or on its grounds.