US jury condemns Charleston church shooter to death

US jury condemns Charleston church shooter to death

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Jennifer Pinckney, widow of the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, one of the Emanuel Church shooting victims, leaves the US District Court with family friend Kylon Middleton in Charleston, South Carolina, on Tuesday. — AP
Jennifer Pinckney, widow of the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, one of the Emanuel Church shooting victims, leaves the US District Court with family friend Kylon Middleton in Charleston, South Carolina, on Tuesday. — AP

CHARLESTON — A US jury on Tuesday condemned self-described white supremacist Dylann Roof to death over the massacre of nine black worshippers in a South Carolina church in June 2015 — a crime that shocked the nation.

Roof, 22, was convicted last month of 33 federal charges — including hate crimes resulting in death — in connection with the shooting spree at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston.

A Bible study group at “Mother Emanuel,” which had welcomed Roof, was just beginning its closing prayer when the self-avowed Nazi and Ku Klux Klan sympathizer opened fire, killing nine people ranging in age from 26 to 87.

The slayings once again exposed the deep divides in America over race and access to guns.

Roof showed little reaction to the decision, delivered just hours after the 12-member jury retired to deliberate, though he occasionally seemed to be slightly smiling.

Federal judge Richard Gergel will formally deliver Roof’s sentence on Wednesday morning at the Charleston courthouse. The verdict unanimously reached by the jury is binding.

“I still feel like I had to do it,” Roof told jurors earlier in a semi-coherent closing argument.

Roof represented himself in the sentencing phase of the trial, against the advice of his lawyers and the judge. He called no witnesses and offered no evidence for the jury to consider.

After the jury offered its sentencing verdict, Roof asked for new attorneys so he could move for a retrial, but Gergel told him to provide specific reasons for his request on Wednesday. — AFP

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