Home / National News / Dylann Roof Tells Jury: 'I Still Feel Like I Had to Do It'

 

(CHARLESTON, S.C.) — Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof on Tuesday told the jury who will decide his fate, “I still feel like I had to do it.”

Roof, already convicted of opening fire and killing nine churchgoers during a Bible study in Charleston, South Carolina, in June 2015, will be sentenced to death or life in prison at the conclusion of this federal trial. The jury will begin deliberations after Tuesday’s closing arguments.

Roof said Tuesday in his closing argument, according to ABC affiliate WCIV-TV, “I think that it’s safe to say that no one in their right mind wants to go into a church and kill people.”

“In my confession to the FBI I told them that I had to do it,” Roof added, WCIV reported.

“But obviously that’s not really true. I didn’t have to do it and no one made me do it,” Roof said, according to WCIV. “What I meant when I said that was I felt like I had to do it and I still feel like I had to do it.”

The government is asking the jury to sentence Roof to death. In the sentencing phase of the federal trial, the government laid out its case over four days, with testimony from the loved ones of victims. The family members and friends shared personal stories about the victims and described what life has been like since the shooting. Jurors cried in court during some of the emotional testimony.

Roof, 22, who is representing himself, refused to testify and did not call any witnesses to the stand. Last week, Roof spoke for less than five minutes in his opening statement, telling the jury there is nothing wrong with him psychologically. He did not apologize for his actions.

The jury must be unanimous to sentence Roof to death; a split decision will yield a life sentence.

Roof said to the jury Tuesday as he concluded his remarks, “Only one of you has to disagree.”

“I know that at least some of you were asked during jury selection … if you were willing to stand up for your own opinion,” Roof said.

In the government’s closing argument Tuesday morning, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson laid out the government’s argument for the death penalty.

Richardson recounted to the jury how on the night of the shooting, the unsuspecting victims, who had gathered for a Bible study, welcomed Roof, a stranger, to join them. Roof then opened fire on them; the victims were vulnerable targets with their eyes closed in prayer, Richardson said, according to WCIV.

When Roof shot pastor and South Carolina State Sen. Clementa Pinckney, another churchgoer tried to intervene, Richardson said. Then Roof executed them one after another, Richardson said.

Richardson reminded the jury of how Roof stood over survivor Polly Sheppard and told her to shut up, and that he was leaving her alive to tell the story.

Tywanza Sanders, who was fatally shot by Roof, told his killer they meant him no harm. Meanwhile, Tywanza Sanders’ mother, survivor Felicia Sanders, shielded a small girl from the bullets, and they played dead during the shooting, Richardson said, WCIV reported.

After each shot, Richardson said, Roof paused and considered his next move, WCIV reported.

“He continued to believe it was worth it,” Richardson said. “Not one ounce of remorse.”

Among those who testified for the government during the sentencing phase was Jennifer Pinckney, wife of slain pastor and South Carolina State Sen. Clementa Pinckney. Pinckney told the jury her husband was a loving and devoted father to their two young daughters, then 6 and 12.

She and her youngest daughter were in an office at the church on the night of the shooting. She recounted to the jury how she and her young daughter hid under a desk as gunshots rang out. She said they put their hands over each other’s mouth. She said Roof tried to open the door to where she was, but it was locked.

She testified that the hardest thing she ever had to do was tell her children that their father had been killed.

On June 17, 2015, Roof entered the predominantly black Emanuel AME Church with the “intent of killing African-Americans engaged in the exercise of their religious beliefs,” according to the federal indictment against him. The parishioners welcomed Roof into their Bible study group, according to the indictment, after which Roof drew his pistol and opened fire.

The 33 federal counts against Roof included hate crimes resulting in death and obstruction of exercise of religion resulting in death.

Roof’s defense attorney David Bruck told the court last month that Roof “did it,” but added, “Our society does not order the death penalty if there are reasons to choose life.”

Roof also faces a state trial in which he may again face the death penalty. The state trial, which was scheduled to begin this month, has been delayed indefinitely.

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