Prosecutors to Play Roof Confession in Church Slayings Trial 

By ELLEN ROBINSON

(CN) – A South Carolina man’s videotaped confession to killing nine black parishioners in a Charleston church in 2015 will be publicly shown for the first time on Friday when prosecutors show it to the jurors who will decide the fate of the accused.

Dylann Roof is Roof is charged with 33 federal counts in connection with the June 17, 2015, massacre at the Emanuel AME Church in downtown Charleston.

His defense conceded that he killed the nine parishioners and wounded three others during a weeknight Bible study class.

Their main goal over the past two days of testimony appears to be to spare him the death penalty.

Toward that end on Friday morning, the defense asked U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel to allow them to present more evidence about Roof’s personality and state of mind.

Gergel said he would take up the issue on a case-by-case basis.

If jurors find Roof guilty, they will decide whether he should be put to death or spend the rest of his life in prison. Roof has said he wants to represent himself during that penalty phase of the trial.

Prosecutors say Roof carefully planned and prepared for the killings at the south’s oldest black church because he hoped to start a race war.

The showing of his lengthy confession — the video is said to run over two hours — comes a day after jurors and victim family members were show dozens of crime scene photos depicting the gruesome aftermath of the crime.

Roof’s defense attorneys objected to the admission of some of the photographs, arguing they were particularly graphic and cumulative.

Gergel reviewed the photos individually, holding aside only a few. The judge also told family members they were free to leave the courtroom if the pictures were too upsetting to them. Several left the courtroom, returning only after the photographs were shown.

Investigators testified that it took them eight to nine hours to process the crime scene in the fellowship hall of the church and that they collected 117 pieces of evidence, including seven cartridge magazines and 74 shell casings.

The images showed the victims lying among round tables and purple chairs, the cartridges that fell near them marked by yellow placards.

On top of the tables, some Bibles remained opened where the victims had left them after studying the evening’s scripture. Rev. Clementa Pinkney’s body lay separate from the others on a tile floor in a pool of blood.

Brittany Burke, a former crime scene investigator with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, described the scene as “chaotic” when she arrived at the church several hours after the murders.

Burke said investigators had to resort to using index cards because there was so much evidence to gather that they ran out of evidence markers.

She said 54 fired projectiles were recovered from later autopsies of the victims, with a number of the victims being him more than five of them and one by perhaps as many as 11.

Throughout the presentation, Roof looked down at the defense table. So far in court, he has only answered a quiet “yes” or “no” in response to Gergel’s questions.

Faint cries could be heard from family members as the images of their deceased loved ones were displayed.

Prior to the presentation of the photographs, jurors viewed surveillance video of the church’s front door which shows each of the 12 parishioners who were killed or wounded entering the church.

The video showed them smiling, warmly greeting one another and chatting as they entered.

Then at point time-stamped 8:17 p.m., Roof can be seen pulling into the church parking lot in a black Hyundai and quickly entering the church wearing  a long sleeved shirt and a fanny pack.

Then, 50 minutes later, the video shows Roof emerging from the church with a 45-caliber Glock in hand. He looked both ways before he slipped back into his car and fled.

Charleston Police Sgt. Dan English testified that the video was critical to identifying Roof as the suspect in the massacre. He was arrested the next day after a motorist in Shelby, North Carolina reported seeing him on the road.