Dylann Roof gets death sentence for 9 slayings in church

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) - A federal jury sentenced Dylann Roof to death for killing nine black church members in a racially motivated attack in 2015.

Roof, who is white, faced either life in prison or execution for the slayings on June 17, 2015. The Justice Department says he is the first person to get the death penalty for federal hate crimes.

The jury reached a decision after about three hours of deliberations.

Roof was convicted last month of all 33 federal charges against him. During sentencing, he represented himself and told jurors he didn't have a mental illness. But he didn't offer any remorse or ask that his life be spared.

Roof told FBI agents he wanted to bring back segregation or perhaps start a race war with the slayings.

During the penalty phase of the trial, he represented himself and told jurors he didn't have a mental illness, but he didn't offer any remorse or ask that his life be spared.

The jury on Tuesday asked U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel for clarification on some of the mitigating factors they were asked to consider, including if Roof could safely be confined if he were sentenced to life in prison. The judge told jurors to re-read the instructions he provided them to figure out what that means.

Jurors also asked to re-watch a speech by the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was one of the nine people Roof killed during a Bible study in 2015.

Prosecutors focused on the gruesome nature of the slayings of nine black parishioners attending a June 2015 Bible study at Charleston's Emanuel AME Church. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson also reminded jurors about the days of emotional testimony they've heard from relatives of all nine people killed.

Roof gave a brief closing of his own, telling jurors he knew he could ask them to spare his life but wasn't sure "what good that would do."

Roof was his own attorney in these proceedings and also told jurors he knew only one of them had to disagree with the others in order for him to avoid a death sentence.

He gave a closing argument of about five minutes. At one point, he said he felt like he had to commit the slayings, and "I still feel like I had to do it."

Prosecutors say he should be executed because he had a "hateful heart" and the young white man targeted the black church in a racially motivated attack.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson told jurors on Tuesday that Roof's crimes more than meet the standards they'll consider for a possible death sentence.

Richardson says the way Roof mercilessly gunned down the black parishioners at Emanuel AME Church, coupled with his lack of remorse, mean he should receive the harshest sentence available.

Richardson also reviewed emotional testimony jurors have heard about each of the victims and the voids created by their deaths.


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