Self-declared white supremacist Dylann Roof was found guilty Thursday of killing nine black worshipers in a South Carolina church.
It took a 12-person panel a little over two hours to convict Roof on all 33 counts, including the 24 that fall under federal hate crime statutes.
Now the jury will decide whether Roof spends the rest of his life in prison — or dies for last year’s massacre at the historic Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. Eighteen of the counts he was convicted on carry the death penalty.
The jury will break for Christmas and return after the holidays on Jan. 3 to begin debating the 22-year-old convicted mass killer’s fate.
The verdict came after prosecutors and the defense made their final arguments.
Roof, prosecutor Nathan Williams said, was “a man of intense hatred.”
“These nine people exemplified a goodness that was greater that his message of hate,” Williams said.
It is my hope that the survivors, the families & the people of South Carolina can find some peace in the fact that justice has been served.
— Nikki Haley (@nikkihaley) December 15, 2016
Defense attorney David Bruck did not contest that Roof killed nine people in cold blood on June 17, 2015. The question that remains, he said, is “why?”
“Why did Dylann Roof do this?” he said. “Why was he motivated?”
During the trial, Bruck put no witnesses on the stand. Nor did he raise any objections when prosecutors played Roof’s videotaped confession to the FBI, which was made following his arrest on June 18, 2015 in Shelby, North Carolina, for the jury.
In it, Roof admitted he was guilty and that the motive was to spark a race war. He told the FBI men he was surprised he was able to kill as many people as he did.
“What I did is still miniscule to what they’re doing to white people every day,” he insisted on the tape.
The jury also heard testimony from 70-year-old survivor Polly Sheppard, who told the court Roof spared her for a sick reason.
“I’m going to leave you here to tell the story,” Roof said, Sheppard testified.
Sheppard told the court that amid the mayhem she somehow managed to find a cell phone on the floor and call 911 for help.
“Please come right away,” she said on the call. “There’ve been plenty of people shot.”
Throughout the trial, Roof barely looked at the victims’ families or reacted to the wrenching testimony from Sheppard or law enforcement. Even when the testimony was interrupted by sobs from the gallery, the admitted killer with the bowl haircut sat stone-faced, staring off into the distance.