Final Arguments Set for South Carolina Church Shooter Facing Execution

If jurors cannot reach a unanimous decision on the death penalty, the default sentence will be life in prison without possibility of parole.

Dylann Roof appears by closed-circuit television at his bond hearing in Charleston, South Carolina, June 19, 2015 in a still image from video. / REUTERS

(Reuters) — U.S. prosecutors and convicted murderer Dylann Roof on Tuesday will give their closing arguments about whether he should be sentenced to death or life in prison for the hate-fueled killings of nine Black people at a South Carolina church.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson said on Monday he worried what Roof, a 22-year-old white supremacist who is representing himself, might tell jurors who will weigh his punishment for the June 2015 massacre at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.

“I’m just concerned that he will bring up things that aren’t in evidence and talk about his views,” Richardson said in federal court.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel warned no such statements would be allowed.

Deliberations are expected to begin after the final arguments. The same jury that last month found Roof guilty of 33 charges, including hate crimes resulting in death, will now decide his fate.

If jurors cannot reach a unanimous decision on the death penalty, the default sentence will be life in prison without possibility of parole, Gergel said.

Jurors heard four days of testimony from prosecution witnesses during the trial’s penalty phase, including family members and friends who offered heartrending memories of the shooting victims.

The government also produced evidence that Roof continued to outline his white supremacist ideology after his arrest, writing in a jail cell journal that he had no remorse.

“I am not sorry,” he wrote. “I do not shed a tear for the innocent people that I killed.”

Roof gave a two-minute opening statement to the jury last week, telling them he was acting as his own lawyer to keep them from hearing details of his mental health.

“There’s nothing wrong with me psychologically,” he said.

Roof put up no defense against the death penalty. He did not cross examine witnesses, rarely objected to evidence and stared straight ahead, unmoving, without looking at family members who testified.

He mostly ignored notes passed to him by his former attorney, now serving as standby counsel, who argued Roof should not be allowed to serve as his own lawyer. Gergel twice ruled Roof competent to stand trial and represent himself.

Roof also faces the death penalty if convicted of murder charges in state court. That trial has been indefinitely delayed.


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