U.S. v. Dylann Roof: Justice Dept. to Seek Death Penalty for Charleston Killings

By Sheryl Estrada

Dylann Roof

The U.S. Department of Justice has decided to seek the death penalty against Dylann Roof, who stands accused of opening fire on June 17, 2015, during Bible study at the Charleston, South Carolina, historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Nine Black church members were killed, including the pastor, South Carolina State Senator Clementa Pinckney.

“Following the department’s rigorous review process to thoroughly consider all relevant factual and legal issues, I have determined that the Justice Department will seek the death penalty,” Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch said in a statement Tuesday regarding the United States v. Dylann Roof. “The nature of the alleged crime and the resulting harm compelled this decision.”

Related Story: 9 Members of Historic Black Church Killed in Hate Crime, Suspect Caught

In addition, Roof, who was caught and arrested on June 18, also faces the death penalty in state court. The trial is scheduled to begin in January.

According to The Post and Courier, seeking the death penalty has been rare for the federal government since it reinstated capital punishment:

“Of thousands of eligible cases since then, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has authorized prosecutors to seek execution in about 500. [Roof’s case] is especially unusual, experts said, because state prosecutors had already announced plans to seek Roof’s execution in their separate case against him.”

The 22-year-old faces 33 federal charges including hate crimes, firearms violations and obstructing the practice of religion. A trial date has not yet been scheduled.

There is no possibility of a plea deal in either the state or federal case, unless prosecutors change their plans.

During a press conference in July to announce federal hate crime chargesagainst Roof,Lynch said the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division deduced he specifically targeted Blacks for death because of their race and planned to do so while they were in religious worship. She said Roof chose a historically Black church for its “significance to Charleston, South Carolina, and the nation.”

Related Story: Charleston, S.C.: A Millennial’s Perspective on Racism in Her City

A website registered in Roof’s name went public in June. It featured photos of him at Confederate heritage sites and an almost 2,500-word racist manifesto. The author of the manifesto also wrote, “I have never been the same since,” after finding theCouncil of Conservative Citizens, a White Nationalist group, website through a Google search. Survivors of the shooting in Charleston said Roof yelled racial slurs during the attack. Authorities have also stated that Roof said he wanted to start arace war.

“Racially motivated crimes such as this is the original domestic terrorism,” Lynch said in July. “The parishioners had Bibles. Dylann Roof had his .45-caliber Glock pistol, and eight magazines loaded with hollow-point bullets.”

Roof’s association with the Confederate flag prompted the public and many officials to call for its removal from South Carolina’s Capitol grounds.

In June President Barack Obama gave a eulogy for Pinckney, during which he explained why theConfederate battle flagneeded to be removed.

“For many, Black and white, that flag was a reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation,”he said. “We see that now.”

The flag was removed from the Capitol grounds on July 10, and states such as Alabama have done the same, while other states, like Mississippi, still debate the issue.

Latest News

Boeing Elects Lynne Doughtie to Board of Directors, Following Resignation of Director Caroline Kennedy

Originally published on boeing.mediaroom.com. The Boeing Company (No. 27 on The 2020 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list) board of directors today announced that Lynne Doughtie has been elected to the board, replacing Caroline Kennedy who has resigned following three years of dedicated service. Doughtie, 58, retired from KPMG in 2020, after serving as U.S. Chairman and…

NYPD under suit

NYPD Sued for Years of Racial Abuse and Use of Excessive Force; Trump Administration Approves Discrimination Against LGBTQ individuals; and More

NYPD sued by Attorney General for years of racial abuse and use of excessive force. In what’s been called a “landmark lawsuit,” The New York Times has reported that New York state Attorney General Letitia James is suing the city of New York, the mayor and the NYPD’s leaders, alleging…

NBCUniversal News Group Launches NBCU Academy, Offering Training to Universities and Community Colleges

NBCUniversal News Group launched NBCU Academy, a new, innovative, multiplatform journalism training and development program for four-year university and community college students through education, on-campus training and online programming. Originally published on corporate.comcast.com. The initiative includes a curated onsite curriculum for hands-on learning experience with world-class NBCU News Group journalists,…


Kaiser Permanente: Committing $8.15M for Racial Equity

Originally published on about.kaiserpermanente.org. Grants to grassroots and nonprofit organizations will help address structural racism and practices that prevent communities of color from achieving good health and well-being. Kaiser Permanente (DiversityInc Hall of Fame), the nation’s largest integrated, nonprofit health system, has awarded $8.15 million to support dozens of nonprofit…

Toyota Research Institute and Stanford University’s Dynamic Design Lab Study How to Improve Automotive Safety

Originally published on pressroom.toyota.com. Inspired by the Skills of Professional Drift Drivers, Research Seeks to Combine the Technology of Vehicle Automation with Artificial Intelligence Algorithms What if every driver who ran into trouble had the instinctive reflexes of a professional race car driver and the calculated foresight of a supercomputer…

Tribal elder

Loss of Tribal Elders Due to COVID-19 Decimating Indigenous Populations; Colorado Revamps Common-Law Marriage Requirements, Making Them More Friendly for LGBTQ Couples; and More

Loss of tribal elders due to COVID-19 decimating Indigenous populations. The Muscogee, Navajo, Blackfeet Nation, White Mountain Apache and Choctaw tribes are among the many communities of Indigenous people suffering irreparable losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, New York Times reporter Jack Healy has reported. Already impacted by infection rates…

Justice for George Floyd

Officer Who Pressed Knee Into George Floyd’s Neck to Stand Trial Alone; Judge Halts Federal Execution of Lisa Montgomery, Only Woman on Death Row

Officer who pressed knee into George Floyd’s neck to stand trial alone in March. Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin — the man who can be seen on video pressing his knee into George Floyd’s neck for an excruciating 8 minutes and 46 seconds — will now stand trial alone,…