Attorney General Loretta Lynch has issued a statement that federal prosecutors will be seeking the death penalty in their case against Dylan S Roof. Roof is charged with the mass killing of nine members of a predominately African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina last year.
“Following the department’s rigorous review process to thoroughly consider all relevant factual and legal issues, I have determined that the Justice Department will seek the death penalty,” said Lynch. “The nature of the alleged crime and the resulting harm compelled this decision.”
In a seven-page court document, prosecutors outlined their reasons for choosing to pursue the death penalty, which included a considerable level of planning and forethought, a “demonstrated a lack of remorse” and that he had “targeted men and women participating in a Bible study group at the church in order to magnify the societal impact.” Federal prosecutors also pointed out that three of the victims were between the ages of 70 and 87. Federal guidelines state that elderly victims can be a justification for the death penalty.
This is not a common event. Out of the thousands of cases reviewed by the Justice Department in the last few decades, seeking the death penalty has only been authorized for five hundred.
In addition to a federal trial, Roof will be tried at the state level. Scarlett A. Wilson, the local prosecutor, has stated that she will also be seeking the death penalty.
David I. Bruck, one of Roof’s defense attorneys, had said that Roof was willing to enter a guilty plea in exchange for life in prison, but at that point it was not clear if prosecutors would accept this deal. Roof’s attorney’s declined to comment on the prosecution’s decision to pursue the death penalty.
Roof’s state trial is set to begin in January. A date for his federal trial has not yet been set.