CHARLESTON, S.C. (CN) - A federal jury convicted Dylann Roof on Thursday of all 33 federal charges he faced for shooting nine parishioners to death and wounding three others at the historic Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.
Roof stood still and looked straight ahead as the verdict was read.
It took the jury just two hours to convict Roof of the June 17, 2015, shooting. The jury will return on January 3, 2017, to decide whether he will receive the death penalty.
After the verdict was announced, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel told Roof he should seriously reconsider his decision to represent himself during the sentencing phase of the trial.
Roof had previously said he wanted to represent himself.
When asked if he wants to continue to exercise his right to represent himself in the courtroom in January, Roof said, "I do."
Gergel said he will allow Roof to change his mind up to Jan 3; after that, the judge said, he'll be stuck with his decision.
The prosecution and defense presented their closing arguments Thursday morning, the government eliciting gasps from the courtroom as it displayed graphic crime scene photos not previously shown to the jury. The defense countered by arguing Roof is mentally ill.
"That church was a sanctuary because these good people created a sanctuary," Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson said of the Emanuel AME Church, called "Mother Emanuel" because it is oldest black church in the south.
The prosecutor then went on to suggest that while Roof believed he was being brave, his actions demonstrated his cowardliness.
“He was scouting that location, finding the most vulnerable location and the most vulnerable people that he could. He found the soft spot of the church, it was place where people are trusting, there are no cameras inside or armed guards," Richardson said.
He said Roof sat with his victims and prayed with them for 45 minutes, but he was just waiting to shoot them. Then, at their most vulnerable moment, when their eyes were closed, he pulled out his gun and began shooting them.
"He shot the most vulnerable one, 87-year-old Susie Jackson, who used a cane to help her walk -- he shot her 10 or 11 times," Richardson said.
He then went on to describe the individual acts of bravery that occurred in the waning moments of the murder victims' lives.
Recalling the accounts of two of the survivors of the massacre, Richardson reminded the jury that the Rev. Dan Simmons ran toward the gunman after the shooting began, apparently seeking to stop him. He also spoke of victim Tywanza Sanders providing a distraction that saved the lives of others, and of Felicia Sanders, one of the three survivors, who put herself between her granddaughter and the bullets.
As Richardson spoke, photos of the victims are superimposed above images of their bodies lying on the ground.
The most graphic of all was one that showed Tywanza Sanders reaching out to another victim, Susie Jackson, who was his aunt.
It was Tywanza Sanders who reported raised himself on his elbows after being shot and asked the gunman, "why are you doing this?" before the gunman shot him dead.
"This defendant's hatred was overwhelming," Richardson said. "Tywanza Sanders saved lives by distracting a man who was just too tired to keep killing."