The trial of Dylann Roof began Wednesday in South Carolina as jury selection concluded. Roof, 22, carried out a bloody massacre that left nine black church-goers dead, and did so, he confessed, in the hopes of starting a “race war.”
The 12-juror panel includes two black women, eight white women, one white man, and one black man.
Proceedings in the Charleston courtroom began with opening statements once the jury was impaneled.
“He hadn’t come to the Bible study to hear the good word. He hadn’t come to hear the Lord,” Asst. U.S. Atty. Julius “Jay” Richardson. Roof staged his deadly attack during a group study of the Parable of the Sower from the Gospel of St. Mark.
“He chose to execute nine good, innocent men and women. And he chose to do so out of a callous hatred of the color of their skin,” he continued.
A court-appointed defense team will represent Roof during the early stages of the trial. He has, over U.S. District Court Judge Richard Gergel’s strenuous objections, chosen to represent himself as the proceedings continue. Gergel called the move “strategically unwise,” before ultimately relenting and allowing Roof to continue pro se. (RELATED: Dylann Roof With Represent Himself At Trial)
“In fairness and in mercy, our society does not invoke the death penalty if there are reasons to choose life, a life in prison,” said David Bruck, who leads Roof’s defense. Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty if he is convicted.
Roof faces 33 federal charges: nine counts of violating the Hate Crime Act resulting in death; three counts of violating the Hate Crime Act involving an attempt to kill; nine counts of obstruction of exercise of religion resulting in death; three counts of obstruction of exercise of religion involving an attempt to kill and use of a dangerous weapon; nine counts of use of a firearm to commit murder during and in relation to a crime of violence.
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