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Thursday, June 13, 2024 | Back issues
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Judge Formally Sentences Dylann Roof to Death

A federal judge formally sentenced Dylann Roof to death on Wednesday, a day after a jury handed the down the sentence for his killing nine black worshippers in a bloodbath at a church in downtown Charleston.

(CN) - A federal judge formally sentenced Dylann Roof to death on Wednesday, a day after a jury handed the down the sentence for his killing nine black worshippers in a bloodbath at a church in downtown Charleston.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel granted Roof's request to allow his standby counsel to assist him in Wednesday's sentencing hearing.

Roof also indicated he wanted to speak during the hearing, but he was told he would have to wait until the family and friends of victims got to have their final say.

In all, more than 30 were expected to speak of those lost the night of June 17, 2015, during a Bible study class at the Emanuel AME Church.

Throughout Wednesday's proceedings, Roof mostly sat stone-faced, refusing to make eye contact with the speakers.

"Dylann ... I know you can hear me," said Janet Scott, aunt of Tywanza Sanders, the youngest of Roof's victims.

"Even as he knelt there and asked you why you were doing this, he was showing you love," Scott said.

"He was showing you one last chance ... but you chose not to take it," she said.

Many of the speakers expressed anger toward Roof, while others spoke of forgiveness and the grace of God.

The one thing all appeared to agree on is that Roof failed at his goal to drive an irreparable wedge between blacks and whites.

Felicia Sanders, Tywanza Sanders' mother, began her statement told Roof that every day she sat in court during his trial she carried the Bible she had with her the night he opened fire and killed her son.

She told him the blood it had been splattered with the night of the shooting had been washed from its torn and battered cover, but she can still see it there.

“It reminds me of the blood that Jesus shed for me and you Dylann Roof. It will never lose its power," she said. "I look at you and see someone cold who is lost and who the devil has come back to claim.

"I know you. You are in my head. You instilled many ‘can’ts’ in my head. I can’t hear his voice. I can’t shut my eyes to pray. I have to keep an eye on everyone around me,” she said.

Tywanza’s sister Shirrene Goss called Roof "the worst kind of evil."

"One day before your Earthly judgment you will realize you didn’t have to do this. It will hit you hard and you will have to beg for forgiveness. You deserve every bit of the sentence. We’re not broken. Hurt, yes, but not broken,” she said.

Dan Simmons Jr., the son of slain Rev. Daniel Simmons, began by telling Roof he understood why the condemned man didn't want to look at the speakers.

"So I will speak to the spirit that possesses you," he said.

“Feel it, feel it, feel it,” Simmons whispered. “Feel the holy spirit. Yes, I’m talking to that spirit in you. You are a body that is being used and doesn’t understand the evil that possesses you. Jesus forgives us. I forgive you, it’s a commandment from God. God requires me to forgive you and pray for you.”

Rose Simmons, the reverend's daughter, said she had chosen to follow her father’s lead and to extend love instead of being engrossed by anger and hatred.

She never looked for remorse from Roof, she said, because she knows it’s not there.

“I don’t grieve for my father so much or his eight precious comrades, I grieve for you Dylann Roof because your heart refuses to yield to the awesome power of love," Simmons said. "That’s a heart that is lost to the powers of its own hell it created.  My father’s last act was to extend a hand of love to you. Now I want to extend a hand of love to you. “

Ashton Timoney, niece of victim, DePayne Doctor refused to call Roof by his name and instead said “to the devil sitting here today.”

“You’ve sparked a conversation across this country between blacks and whites. Now we are having those meaningful conversations about race that we used to be afraid to talk about. I’m now closer to many of my white colleagues. To your mission – FAIL! FAIL! FAIL” she yelled. “You brought these nine families together. We are Charleston Strong.”

Doctor’s daughter, Gracyn Doctor, said it’s the people with the most hatred and malice that try to cast it out onto others.

“You have a cold dark space where your heart should be. I hope that while waiting for your death grief and guilt eat you alive," she said. "We’re strong and can begin to heal. Let us go out and live our lives and have joy in our hearts. This spawn of Satan cannot steal this from us. We are strong. We are black and beautiful and can do this.”

Gayle Jackson, niece of victim Susie Jackson, spoke of the pain Roof's actions continue to cause her family.

"My mother can't even step a foot into church ... and for you to sit here every day and never apologize was hurtful," she said, adding, "I want your soul to burn in hell."

Roof, who also faces murder charges in state court, plans to appeal the federal case. Prosecutors say he will remain jailed in Charleston until the state charges are resolved. No trial date has been set.

Categories / Criminal, Trials

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