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January 10, 2017

Charleston Church shooter Dylann Roof sentencing to death by federal jury

As reported in this local article, only "a few hours after he told a crowded courtroom 'I still feel like I had to do it,' a federal jury sentenced Dylann Roof to death for carrying out a cold, calculated massacre inside Charleston's Emanuel AME Church in a bid to spark a race war." Here is more about an unsurprising verdict:

The 12-member panel – three white jurors, nine black – deliberated for a little less than three hours before unanimously deciding that the 22-year-old white supremacist should die for his crimes rather than spend his life in prison without the possibility of parole.

It will be up to the presiding judge to formally impose that sentence, but he is bound by law to follow the jury’s decision. U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel has scheduled the formal sentencing hearing for 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Roof, who sat stone-faced and silent through most of his hate crimes trial, betrayed no emotion as the jury’s verdict was read. During his closing argument earlier in the day, he passed on the chance to argue for his life, saying “I’m not sure what good that will do anyway.”

After the jury announced its verdict, Roof stood and asked the judge if he would appoint him new lawyers to help him file a request for a new trial. Gergel told Roof a significant amount has been spent on the current legal team that Roof sidelined for the trial's penalty phase, a team led by noted capital defense lawyer David Bruck. The judge said he would be "strongly disinclined" to bring in new lawyers at this point, but he will listen to any motions Roof wants to make during Wednesday's proceedings.

Earlier in the day, Roof told the jury that prosecutors don't understand him or the meaning of hate in their quest to put him to death for the June 2015 church massacre. “Anyone, including the prosecution, who thinks I am filled with hate has no idea what real hate is,” Roof said, speaking to jurors from a podium about eight feet away from the jury box. “They don’t know anything about hate."

After Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson delivered a two-hour closing statement, Roof walked to the podium with a single sheet of yellow notebook paper. He appeared to read from it, pausing at times to glance down. His remarks lasted less than five minutes.

January 10, 2017 at 05:19 PM | Permalink


Suicide by jury.

Posted by: My friend , Docile (now in OR) | Jan 10, 2017 7:00:50 PM

Meanwhile, the state trial was postpone by a state judge indefinitely:


It is rather backward in my mind for the federal case to come first. The murders are more blatantly a state crime, murder against the citizens of South Carolina, than a matter for the federal government. I thought the state should handle it alone, at the very least in regard to the death penalty. Now, I'm unclear on the need to go thru this all again, especially if they have to deal with Roof trying to be his own lawyer again.

Posted by: Joe | Jan 11, 2017 12:28:10 PM

I don't think there is any inherent priority in which jurisdiction should go first. With the appropriate caveats for murder being different, at one level, it's like a person committing robbery in two adjoining counties. Which jurisdiction gets to go first is based on who is ready to go first.

As far as why the state prosecutor may choose to proceed, it's simply an insurance policy. Just because the jury has returned a death sentence does not mean that the death sentence will survive appeal and collateral review. Getting a second death sentence would mean that Roof would need to get both cases overturned. In my much younger days, I worked on a case involving a multi-state murder spree. My county got to go first and got the death sentence, but the other counties in the other states still tried their cases and sought death just in case our sentence got overturned.

Posted by: tmm | Jan 11, 2017 1:30:30 PM

"it's like a person committing robbery in two adjoining counties"

The state and federal government seems a bit different from "two adjoining counties." But, the comment basically skips over my (surely debatable) argument really, one arguing that the issue (and murder isn't necessarily different here on principle) is more of the concern of the state. "On another level," it just might not be the same.

I concur as to some value of the insurance policy (I recall noting this in the past in respect to punishments that added up to more than the years likely in one's life) though how much of one net it will be is unclear to me.

Posted by: Joe | Jan 11, 2017 2:22:51 PM

Joe, I just see whether this case is primarily a state offense as going to whether the feds should have filed in the first place. I don't think that one sovereign (or a separate political subdivision of the same sovereign) has to wait on another sovereign as long as there isn't an issue about obtaining physical custody of the defendant. Once the additional jurisdiction has enough of an interest to file, I think the controlling factor in who goes first should be who is ready to go first, particular in light of the defendant's, the victims' and the public's interest in a speedy trial.

Posted by: tmm | Jan 11, 2017 3:31:38 PM

I tend to agree that they should try to avoid federalizing murder charges except narrow circumstances (where the Interstate Commerce Clause rarely applies). Of course, I don't think a South Carolina jury would have come up with a different result under the circumstances.

Posted by: Erik M | Jan 11, 2017 4:02:08 PM

Who cares about the federal/state issues in this particular case? This isn't the case to flyspeck. There are nine corpses in the ground--let's make it a tenth soon.

Posted by: federalist | Jan 11, 2017 4:05:29 PM

Enjoy the execution, Doc.

Posted by: anon | Jan 11, 2017 8:22:34 PM

"Who cares about the federal/state issues in this particular case?"
Says a person who goes by the moniker "federalist".

Posted by: irony | Jan 12, 2017 11:06:12 AM

"I just see whether this case is primarily a state offense as going to whether the feds should have filed in the first place."

Yes. Since I think this is a concern, the "neighboring county" or whatever example to me didn't really address my argument. We are not just talking equal sovereigns here -- like two counties or two states either. State and federal is a more complicated case.

I think there can be various degrees here too. Thus, yes, the filing first (which affects the second prosecution in various ways; imagine in a closer case where the first resulted in life imprisonment or even an acquittal or some other complication) question would in a lesser degree matter too. At least on policy grounds.

I have an idea btw that at least somewhat it might be harder to execute someone in federal custody [going by execution numbers in the last 50 years alone] though less so with the upcoming administration. A second trial could also if anything add more complications and delays.

Posted by: Joe | Jan 12, 2017 1:25:49 PM

Second trial shouldn't add more complications and delays. The direct appeal on the federal case can proceed while the State is getting holding its trial. Nothing that happens in the state trial would be relevant to issue of whether federal court erred in making rulings based on the facts and evidence as presented in the federal trial.

Things get a little more complicated after the state trial -- but the primary complication in coordinating further proceedings in both cases is where Roof is housed. If the federal government and the state agree that Roof stays in South Carolina until his state collateral review is finished, that potential complication is eliminated. The federal 2255 should be able to proceed while Roof's direct appeal proceeds in state court. The only other potential complication is if information comes to light in the State trial that would demonstrate a Brady violation or ineffective assistance by counsel. (Given the restrictions placed by Roof on counsel, I am having trouble seeing how Roof wins a 2255 on a claim of ineffective assistance.)

I am not sure which will have trouble executing Roof when the case gets past collateral review. Obviously feds have the advantage of only one round of collateral review (as opposed to having to get through both state and federal court on state conviction). And it's been five years since the last execution in South Carolina even though South Carolina does have thirty-eight people on death row. South Carolina currently lacks the ability to carry out an execution.

Posted by: tmm | Jan 12, 2017 2:40:48 PM

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