Dylann Roof Rests His Defense in Charleston Church Shooting Trial


Dylann Roof rested his case Monday, calling no witnesses and presenting no evidence in his own defense to stave off the death penalty for the murder of nine black worshippers at a South Carolina church.

Roof, a 22-year-old self-professed white supremacist, declined to cross-examine the final two witnesses called by the prosecution in the penalty phase of the trial.

The jury will hear closing arguments Tuesday before deliberating on whether to condemn Roof to death or life in prison for the racially motivated June 17 massacre at a historic African-American church in downtown Charleston.

Roof was convicted last month of all charges in the shooting he unleashed during the closing prayer at a Bible study session, killing nine people who ranged in age from 16 to 87.

On Monday prosecutors called the parents and a sibling of the late Tywanza Sanders to the witness stand to testify about the loss of their loved one, a 26-year-old free-spirited barber and graduate of Allen University.

Sanders’s mother, Felicia Sanders, was the government’s final witness during the punishment phase of the trial, in which a 12-person jury heard emotional testimony from relatives and friends of the victims over four days.

– Memories of a son –
Felicia Sanders’s testimony recalled her son as an energetic and joyful young man who fully embraced his responsibilities at home and in his community, serving as a loving uncle, dependable son and respectful member of Emanuel A.M.E. Church.

Looking at a Christmas card from her son, Felicia Sanders read aloud in court his words, including a comment that one day they’d both be on TV.

“I just didn’t know we was going to be on TV like this,” said Felicia Sanders, alluding to the intense media coverage of the shooting and its aftermath.

During that time news reports revealed that Roof penned long racist manifestoes, posed in many photos with a gun and the Confederate flag, confessed to the crime, and told investigators he had hoped to start a “race war” with his killings.

Felicia Sanders was also the government’s first witness during the guilt portion of the trial, testifying a month ago how she survived the shooting in the church basement by hiding under a table with her young granddaughter, rubbing herself in the blood of others and playing dead.

She watched Roof execute her son and 87-year-old relative, Susie Jackson. Before Tywanza Sanders died he questioned Roof, who had been welcomed into the Bible study session an hour earlier, as to why he was hurting people who meant him no harm.

“I have to do this because you are raping our women and taking over the world,” said Roof, according to Felicia Sanders’s testimony.

“That is when he put about five bullets into my son,” she continued. “There were 77 shots in that room from someone we thought was looking for the Lord.”

Roof rested the defense’s case soon after the government finished on Monday, calling no witnesses, submitting no evidence, and electing not to testify himself.

SOURCE: AFP, Jason Ryan