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Crime & Law
Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof sentenced to death in federal trial

Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof sentenced to death in federal trial

Dylann Roof Found Guilty on all Federal Counts of Murder, Sentenced to Death

Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof sentenced to death in federal trial

UPDATE: Convicted Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof was sentenced to death Tuesday for the June 2015 mass shooting that left nine people at Emanuel AME Church dead. It took the federal jury less than three hours of deliberations to reach the decision.

Roof's family said in a statement they "will struggle as long as they live to understand why he committed this horrible attack, which caused so much pain to so many good people." The statment also expressed the family's grief for the victims of Roof's crimes.

South Carolina State Sen. Tim Scott also issued a statement after the decision, praising the verdict. "Today that man was rightly sentenced to death."

Scott pledged to continue supporting the families of the victims. He said the decision "is a pivotal moment in their road towards some sort of closure."

After receiving the death penalty, Roof reportedly told the judge he wanted new, court-appointed attorneys, but the judge said Roof can argue for new lawyers at his formal sentencing hearing scheduled for Wednesday morning at 9:30.

Roof on Tuesday offered few words to persuade jurors to spare his life for the murders he committed inside Emanuel AME Church, the oldest African Methodist Episcopal church in the South. He gave a disjointed closing statement in which he tried to downplay the hatred that Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson accused him of harboring. 

“I think that it’s, um, safe to say that no one in their right mind would want to go into a church and kill people,” Roof said. 

 >> Read more trending stories

The Post and Courier in Charleston reported that Roof, who represented himself in the penalty phase of his trial, argued that he was not lying when he told FBI agents in 2015 that he does not hate black people. 

However, he admitted on Tuesday that he felt, and still feels, like he had to do what he did. 

“If I was really filled with as much hate as I allegedly am, wouldn’t I just say, ‘Yes, I hate black people?'” Roof said. “Wouldn’t it be fair to say the prosecution hates me because they are trying to get the death penalty?”

Roof said that Richardson and others accusing him of hatred do not know what true hatred looks like. 

“Anyone, including the prosecution, who thinks I am filled with hate has no idea what real hate is,” Roof said, according to the newspaper. “They don’t know anything about me.” 

He finished his statement by telling jurors that he has been told that he has the right to ask for a life sentence, but said he’s “not sure what good that would do anyway.”

Richardson countered in his final rebuttal that Roof continues to believe that he did the right thing and said the defendant’s closing argument “didn’t mitigate what he did.”

“Render the full measure of justice for this defendant,” Richardson said. “Sentence this defendant to death.”

‘A hate-filled heart and a Glock .45’

Before Roof’s statement, Richardson began his two-hour closing argument Tuesday morning by reminding jurors how Emanuel AME Church’s pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, and the 11 other church members at the church on the night of June 17, 2015, welcomed Roof into their Bible study, the Post and Courier reported.

Pinckney offered the quiet young white man with the bowl haircut a seat next to him, a Bible and a handout about their lesson for the week. Just 45 minutes later, Pinckney and eight of his church members were lying on the floor, dead or dying. 

“They learned with the sounds of gunfire that the defendant had not come to learn or receive the Word,” Richardson told jurors, according to the newspaper. “He came with a hate-filled heart and a Glock .45.”

Richardson pointed out that Roof reloaded the gun seven times as he slowly made his way through the fellowship hall, firing more than 75 bullets at the people who had showed him kindness. He brought 88 bullets with him into the church, a nod to the eighth letter of the alphabet, “H.” The two eights, or “HH,” represented the phrase “Heil Hitler,” the prosecutor said. 

Roof, a self-proclaimed white nationalist, kept a racist manifesto online, to which he last posted just hours before the shooting. He then drove to Charleston and Mother Emanuel, as he had done several times over a six-month span as he decided where he would carry out his crime. 

Authorities found a hard copy of his manifesto in his car upon his arrest, along with a handwritten list of black churches. The historic Emanuel AME topped the list.

Richardson also reminded jurors Tuesday that Roof showed no remorse for his actions, the Post and Courier said. Roof wrote in a jailhouse journal that he kept after the murders that he had no remorse for the victims, but did feel bad for himself because he was giving up his own freedom. 

He wrote that he also had sympathy for white people “forced to live in this sick country.” He said his own sacrifices were “worth it.”

“I would like to make it crystal clear,” Roof wrote. “I do not regret what I did. I am not sorry. I have not shed a tear for the innocent people I killed.”

That lack of remorse, along with other “horrific aspects” of the case, justify Roof being sentenced to death, Richardson told jurors

“It outweighs anything else you might consider on the other side,” Richardson said. 

The federal prosecutor pointed out that Roof’s journal was written after he had killed the victims and that, as recently as during his trial, Roof was wearing shoes that he had adorned with white supremacist symbols. 

“You have seen nothing to indicate this defendant shows the possibility of meaningful change or redemption,” Richardson said

Richardson argued that the lack of potential for change in prison was just one of the criteria that Roof met that warranted the death penalty. The attack on the church also involved the deaths of multiple people, the people targeted were particularly vulnerable and the shooting involved months of planning, he said. 

Richardson also said that Roof could pose a danger in prison by continuing to spout hate and advocating for racially motivated violence. 

The defendant said little during the penalty phase of the trial, taking just three minutes for his opening statement. 

In his statement, Roof asked jurors to ignore defense attorney David Bruck’s efforts to cast doubt on his state of mind and told them that there was “nothing wrong with (him) psychologically.” 

He did not question any of the prosecution’s witnesses, though he did file multiple motions in support of his case. One motion argued that it was “not fair” for the judge to allow so much testimony from loved ones describing how the victims’ deaths affected their lives. 

Another motion filed Monday raised 27 objections to things that prosecutors might mention in closing arguments, such as references to God and “particularly inflammatory” terms regarding the views that Roof expressed in his writings, the Post and Courier reported

Roof also challenged the aggravating factors that jurors would be asked to consider, including allegations that the shooting was designed to start a race war, the newspaper said. 

“There is no evidence that I attempted to incite violent action by others in preparation, or subsequent to, the acts of violence,” the motion read.  

Those killed in the massacre were Pinckney, who was also a state senator, and church members the Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, the Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, the Rev. Daniel Lee Simmons Sr. and Myra Thompson. 

Click here to read more about each of the victims of the Emanuel AME Church massacre

The same jury that will sentence Roof found him guilty last month of 33 separate federal charges stemming from the mass shooting. The jury consisted of three black jurors and nine white jurors. 

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  • As the House voted along party lines on Thursday to approve a sweeping package of GOP tax reforms, one peculiar part of the floor debate came when a number of Republicans – who voted for the bill – took to the floor to request changes in the their party’s plan, as some highlighted unintended consequences, while others objected to the basics of the measure. Known in parliamentary parlance as a “colloquy,” the scripted exchanges between lawmakers are often done to clarify the legislative intent of a bill, or in this case, to urge action in a specific way in House-Senate negotiations. And for some Republicans in this week’s tax reform debate, it was clear they wanted some provisions altered. Some requests were specific, like Rep. David McKinley (R-WV), who made the case for historic preservation tax credits, which were eradicated by the House GOP tax reform bill. “Without the credit, projects that transform communities in all 50 states, from West Virginia to Texas, to Wisconsin, simply will not happen,” McKinley said on the House floor, as he asked for Brady’s word that he would help reverse the decision. That didn’t happen. “I commit to working with him and continuing to work with him on this issue because I know the importance of it,” Brady responded, making sure not to guarantee anything in some of these floor exchanges. For Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), a staunch advocate of the GOP bill, he asked the Chairman of the House Ways and Means to do more in terms of tax help for the people of Puerto Rico, whose island was devastated by Hurricane Maria. “I look forward to working with you on ideas to best serve the people of this island,” said Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), who thanked fellow GOP lawmakers for their concerns, but made no promises. For Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY), the issue was with a new excise tax from Republicans that would be levied on the endowments of private colleges and universities. Barr said that would harm Berea College in his district, a ‘work college’ that uses its endowment money to pay the tuition of all students. It was noted in press stories back home. Barr Fights for Berea College in Tax Reform Bill – https://t.co/YoBgs5CWvp – — BereaOnline.com (@bereaonline) November 16, 2017 “I was pleased to learn that the Senate version of the bill exempts schools with fewer than 500 tuition-paying students from the excise tax,” Barr said, urging Brady to accept that position in any House-Senate negotiation. Brady said he would try. “Mr. Speaker, we will work together for a mutually accepted solution to make sure we exempt work colleges to use their endowments to provide tuition-free education,” the panel chairman responded. For Rep. Don Young (R-AK), the problem he brought to the House floor was under the heading of unintended consequences, as the GOP tax bill would subject native settlement trusts in Alaska to a higher rate of taxation. “This would make it more difficult for Alaska Native Settlement Trusts to provide long-term benefits to Alaska Natives,” Young said on the House floor, asking Brady to include provisions of a bill to remedy that and more. Unlike some of the other requests, Brady acknowledged that the GOP tax bill would “unintentionally” change the tax rate for the Alaskan settlements, agreeing to focus on this in conference as we finalize individual rate structures between the House and the Senate.” Others weren’t so lucky to get a guarantee of action, as they pressed for changes in maybe the most controversial part of the GOP plan, which limits a deduction for state and local taxes. “I am concerned about its impact on some of my constituents in Maryland who pay high state and local income taxes,” said Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD), the only Republican member of the House from that state, which would be one of the biggest losers on the SALT issue. That subject also drew two California Republicans to make the same appeal to Brady later in the debate; Rep. Mimi Walters (R-CA) and Rep. Steve Knight (R-CA) echoed the concerns of Harris – all of them got a murky assurance of help. “I am happy to commit to working with both of them to ensure we reach a positive outcome for their constituents and families as we reconcile our differences with the Senate,” Brady said, making no promises. Other Republicans brought up education, and a provision in the GOP tax reform bill that would hinder colleges and universities from providing tax free tuition waivers and reimbursements, a matter that has drawn more and more attention in recent days. Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH) – whose district includes Dayton University – and Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL) – whose district includes the University of Illinois – both appealed to Brady to make a change. “I believe that an unintended consequence of this bill would hinder middle class Americans pursuing a higher education degree in an attempt to better their lives,” Turner said. “I am worried it is going to have an impact on the custodians and the assistants in the Registrar’s Office who are just working at these institutions to be able to send their son or daughter to college,” said Davis. There was no guarantee that the provision would be changed. “I have a keen interest in this issue,” Brady told Turner and Davis. “I will work with you toward a positive solution on tuition assistance in conference with the Senate.” Democrats noted the exchanges on both days of the House tax reform debate, arguing that it showed off the haphazard nature of how the bill was put together. “I also was intrigued by the colloquy where Members came to ask the leadership if they will work with them to take out egregious elements of this tax proposal,” said Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI). “We get this sort of, “Yes, I will work with the gentleman,” answer,” Kildee added, raising his voice on the floor. “Why did you put it in in the first place?” Kildee yelled. “Why are you cutting historic tax credits in the first place? Why did you put it in in the first place? You just wrote the bill. You just wrote it,” he said. GOP lawmakers said this past week that anyone can find a reason to vote against a big bill like this tax reform plan – we’ll see in coming weeks whether these publicly voiced concerns become an issue for the final version of tax reform in the Congress.
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  • KRMG has learned Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed 'most' of the revised budget bill passed by lawmakers this week. In a statement released by her office, Fallin says, “House Bill 1019X does not provide a long-term solution to the re-occurring budget deficits, and within three months we will come back facing an estimated $600 million shortfall.' Fallin vetoed 165 of 170 sections in the bill.  She did leave intact provisions for the Department of Mental Health, the Department of Human Services, Oklahoma Health Care Authority, the Department of Health, and the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. Statement from the Tulsa Regional Chamber: “We at the Tulsa Regional Chamber strongly applaud Governor Fallin’s decision to veto much of the revised budget sent to her by the legislature Friday. Her courage in demanding real solutions to our budget crisis – not merely kicking the can down the road – is admirable and necessary. Oklahomans expect elected officials to be responsible stewards of public funds and navigate a sound budget for the state. We support Governor Fallin’s leadership tonight in demanding a higher standard for all Oklahomans.”
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  • An Ohio pastor, arrested in Dayton, was found guilty earlier this year for loitering to engage in solicitation, according to court records. >> Read more trending news Daniel P. Williams, 40, of Huber Heights, was found guilty in late August after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor count of loitering, according to Dayton Municipal Court. Williams’ employer is listed as Arrowbrook Baptist Church in Xenia in both court record and the police report. The church’s website also lists Williams as its pastor. Attempts to reach Williams by phone  were unsuccessful. Williams was originally charged with a second count of loitering and a third count of soliciting. Both were withdrawn upon his guilty plea, according to Dayton Municipal Court.  The violation happened at around noon Aug. 17, according to Dayton police. Williams was sentenced to 60 days in jail, with all 60 days suspended. He will be on probation for one year, according to court records.