CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Dylann Roof told jurors Tuesday that he could ask them for life in prison instead of the death penalty for killing nine black church members, but he was not sure “what good that would do.”
In his closing argument, Roof did not ask for mercy or forgiveness and told the jury he felt like he had to carry out the slayings during a Bible study on June 17, 2015.
“I still feel like I had to do it,” Roof said.
The jury will begin deliberations Tuesday afternoon. Jurors’ decision must be unanimous. If they are unable to agree, a life sentence is automatically imposed.
Every juror looked directly at Roof as he spoke to them for about five minutes. A few nodded as he reminded them that they said during jury selection they could fairly weigh the factors about whether he should get life in prison or the death penalty.
Roof said prosecutors couldn’t go into his mind and they showed hatred by seeking the death penalty against him.
Prosecutors said Roof, a 22-year-old white man, deserved execution because he went to the historic Emanuel AME Church with a gun and a “hateful heart.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson said the 12 people Roof targeted were God-fearing church members who opened the door for a white stranger with a smile. Three people survived.
“They welcomed a 13th person that night … with a kind word, a Bible, a handout and a chair,” Richardson said during his closing argument. “He had come with a hateful heart and a Glock .45.”
Richardson reminded jurors about each one of the victims and the bloody crime scene that Roof left behind in the church’s lower level. Roof sat with the Bible study group for about 45 minutes. During the final prayer — when everyone’s eyes were closed — he started firing. He stood over some of the fallen victims, shooting them again as they lay on the floor, the prosecutor said.
The jury same jury that’s considering Roof’s fate convicted him last month of all 33 federal charges he faced, including hate crimes.
Nearly two dozen friends and relatives of the victims testified about cherished memories and opined about a future without a mother, father, sister or brother. They shed tears and their voices shook, but none of them said whether Roof should face the death penalty.
Richardson reviewed their testimony during final arguments and recalled Jennifer Pinckney’s remarks about her husband, Clementa, as he sang goofy songs and watched cartoons with their young daughters in his spare time. He was the church pastor and a state senator.
The prosecutor said they proved Roof was a cold, calculated killer and noted that when Roof had one last chance to express remorse, he instead hung on to his racist beliefs.
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