A federal appeals court upheld the death sentence of Dylann Roof for the 2015 fatal shootings of nine members of a Black South Carolina congregation in a Wednesday decision.
A unanimous jury sentenced Roof to death in their January 10, 2017 verdict that found him guilty on 33 counts after he admitted to the racist slayings of nine people at the Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church during a prayer meeting. His attorneys appealed the verdict arguing that the trial judge mistakenly allowed Roof to largely represent himself, calling no witnesses or evidence for his defense.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia rejected his attorneys’ claims that the trial judge made explicit errors, saying Roof deserves “the harshest penalty” for his crimes, The Associated Press (AP) reported. (RELATED: HIGH DRAMA: Dylann Roof’s Mother Suffers Heart Attack IN COURT)
“Dylann Roof murdered African Americans at their church, their Bible-study and worship. They had welcomed him. He slaughtered them,” the panel wrote. “He did so with the express intent of terrorizing not just his immediate victims at the historically important Mother Emanuel Church, but as many similar people as would hear of the mass murder.”
“No cold record or careful parsing of statutes and precedents can capture the full horror of what Roof did. His crimes qualify him for the harshest penalty that a just society can impose.”
The lawyers further argued in the appeal case that their client’s conviction and death sentence should be overturned for a “proper competency evaluation.”
Now: 4th Circuit upheld Dylann Roof’s convictions + death sentence:
“No cold record or careful parsing of statutes and precedents can capture the full horror of what Roof did. His crimes qualify him for the harshest penalty that a just society can impose” https://t.co/ndwucMficl pic.twitter.com/bEDvMvKake
— Zoe Tillman (@ZoeTillman) August 25, 2021
All of the judges in the 4th Circuit distanced themselves from the case due to Judge Jay Richardson’s position as a prosecutor in Roof’s case when he served as an assistant U.S. Attorney, AP reported.
Rev. Kylon Middleton, a close friend of Democratic South Carolina State Sen. Clementa Pinckney, a victim of the attack, said he “has accepted” the sentence despite being opposed to the death penalty, according to AP. The judges came from different appellate circuits and began discussing the case in May.
“We just want whatever the consequence or the justice that had been delivered based on the court’s ruling to be final, period,” Middleton said.
Attorney General Merrick Garland ordered a temporary halt to the scheduling of all federal executions in July during the Justice Department’s review of new lethal injection policies enacted under former Attorney General Bill Barr, who ordered federal death row to carry out executions in 2019.
President Joe Biden attended Pinckney’s funeral when he was vice president and often referenced the deadly attack during his 2020 presidential campaign, according to AP. The president said a visit to the church consoled him after the death of his son, Beau.
Roof could potentially file a 2255 appeal, request that the trial court reevaluate the constitutionality of his conviction, petition the U.S. Supreme Court or request a presidential pardon, the outlet reported.