Dylann Roof, the self-described white supremacist sentenced to death earlier this year for the 2015 Charleston, S.C., church massacre, will plead guilty next month to murder charges in his state trial, attorneys said Friday.
The decision means that the Charleston community — including people who survived the church attack and relatives of those slain — will be spared a second death-penalty trial again poring over the details of the killings.
Roof was charged in two cases stemming from the June 2015 attack at Emanuel AME Church, when nine black parishioners were gunned down during Bible study. He has already been convicted on federal hate-crime charges and was still facing a state trial on charges of murder and attempted murder.
In a letter to families of the victims, Scarlett A. Wilson, the prosecutor overseeing Roof’s case in state court, told them that Roof, now 22, had agreed to plead guilty in exchange for a sentence of life in prison. Roof had been facing another possible death sentence in the state case.
“The plea is negotiated which means it is ‘carved in stone,’ ” Wilson wrote in the letter Friday, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post.
Wilson described this as “an insurance policy to the federal conviction and sentence,” writing that her goal was to get a guilty plea so that Roof could be moved into federal custody. Roof is being held in Charleston County’s detention center.
“A guilty plea in state court means that if something very, very, very unlikely were to happen at the federal level, the state sentence would take effect and he would serve life in prison,” she wrote. Wilson added, in parentheses: “And no more trials!”
Ashley Pennington, a defense attorney for Roof in the state case, confirmed that Wilson’s letter was accurate and declined to comment further.
This agreement signals an end to the lengthy court proceedings that have followed the massacre, dating to Roof’s first court appearance nearly two years ago. During that hearing, relatives of the church victims stood up and spoke of their pain while also offering Roof forgiveness and saying they were praying for his soul.
SOURCE: Mark Berman
The Washington Post