Six weeks after he shot and killed nine people at a Charleston church, Dylann Roof lamented in a jailhouse journal that he could no longer go to the movies or eat good food. But he still felt the massacre was “worth it” because of what he perceived as the wrongs perpetrated by the black community.
“I would like to make it crystal clear, I do not regret what I did,” Roof wrote. “I am not sorry.”
The journal was the centerpiece of prosecutors’ opening bid to convince jurors that Roof, 22, deserves the death penalty for slaying nine black parishioners of the city’s historic Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in 2015. Roof, 22, was convicted last month of federal hate crimes for the shooting, and the same jurors who declared him guilty must weigh whether he deserves life in prison, or execution.
For his part, Roof did nothing to rebut prosecutors’ assertions about his lack of remorse. He used a brief opening statement only to tell jurors that he had fired his lawyers because he did not want them to present evidence about his mental health. He complained that the lawyers, outside of the view of the jury, “forced me to go through two competency hearings,” which he said would eventually become part of the public record.
“So, in that respect, my self-representation accomplishes nothing, so you can say, what’s the point?” Roof said. “And the point is that I’m not going to lie to you, either by myself or through anyone else.”
“There’s nothing wrong with me psychologically,” he added later.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathan Williams said that Roof’s crimes were awful enough to deserve the ultimate penalty. Roof killed not one person, but nine, and “he killed them because of the color of their skin,” Williams said. He researched and scouted the church full of innocent people, whom he targeted for their vulnerability and “to magnify and incite violence in others,” Williams said.
And even six weeks after the massacre was over, Williams said, Roof wrote about his racial hatred and desire to spark mayhem in a journal investigators took from his jail cell. He said he sometimes lamented the loss of some of the things he enjoyed doing while free, but remarked, “Then I remember how I felt when I did these things, when I committed these murders, and how I knew I had to do something. And then I realized it was worth it.”
Jurors on Tuesday also heard firsthand from a survivor of the attack: Jennifer Pinckney, who listened from another room in the church while Roof executed her husband, the Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, and the others.
Pinckney said she urged her daughter to be quiet, so they, too, would not be killed, and when she went to retrieve her phone, she told the young girl: “Regardless of what happens to Mommy, you stay under this desk.” Earlier, she said, she had heard Roof say, “I’m not crazy, I had to do this,” and what sounded like him attempting to open the locked door.
“I was just like, ‘This is it, this is it,’ ” Pinckney said.
As Pinckney testified, Roof sat motionless — looking downward or straight ahead. Given an opportunity to question her himself, Roof said, “No questions.”
Roof did not contest his guilt in the case. Jurors saw a video of him matter-of-factly confessing to the crime in an interview with FBI agents and even chuckling at times.
“I am guilty,” he said. “We all know I’m guilty.”
In the same interview, though, Roof said that he regretted the crime “a little bit” and that the fact that nine people were killed “makes me feel bad.” Jurors took less than two hours to find him guilty of all 33 counts they were asked to consider.
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SOURCE: The Washington Post