The federal jury deliberated for nearly two hours before returning its unanimous verdict –– one that was expected after Roof, 22, confessed to the killing after he was arrested in Shelby, N.C., just 17 hours after the shootings. In his writings and confession to investigators, Roof said he hoped killing innocent church-goers would “start a race war.”
Roof was charged with 33 federal counts, including hate crimes resulting in death. His case was taken to jury trial after the U.S. Department of Justice rejected his offer to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence. The jury, which began deliberating today, asked to again watch Roof’s video taped confession.
The jury is scheduled to reconvene on Jan. 3 to determine whether Roof should face the death penalty. Roof, who did not testify in his own defense during the trial, has said he wants to act as his own attorney during the penalty phase.
In his closing argument, Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathan Williams summarized testimony and evidence, telling jurors that Roof, who was 21 at the time of the killings, walked into Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church on June 21, 2015, and unleashed “cold, calculated hatred” on the nine black worshipers gathered for Bible study.
Roof told investigators that he deliberately targeted the church because of its predominately black congregation, hoping to make a statement about what he perceived as injustices associated with black-on-white crimes –– a false narrative propagated by groups such as the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC).
On that day in June, Roof was was welcomed into the Bible study group by members who were unaware that he was armed with a .45 caliber Glock handgun and several magazines loaded with hollow-point bullets. As the parishioners closed their eyes for prayer shortly after 9 p.m., Roof began his rampage, seeking out the most-vulnerable and shooting them again and again on the floor as they cowered under tables, the Post and Courier newspaper reported.
In his own manifesto, Roof claimed to have been radicalized into white nationalism after reading the CCC’s website. The group, the modern reincarnation of the old White Citizens Councils, says its mission is to educate white people about what it sees as an epidemic of black-on-white crime in the United States. Roof bought into that philosophy, he told FBI agents just hours after his arrest in a videotaped confession played for the jury.
“Well, I had to do it because somebody had to do something because, you know, black people are killing white people every day on the streets, and they rape white women, 100 white women a day,” Roof told the agents in a video taped interview with investigators shown during the trial. “The fact of the matter is what I did is so minuscule to what they’re doing to white people every day, all the time.”