Mass murderer, white supremacist and All-American scumbag Dylann Roof will have to meet his maker for killing nine Black people in a South Carolina church back in 2015, a court ruled Wednesday.
A unanimous three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., upheld his 2017 conviction and death sentence for the murder of nine Black people and rejected arguments that he was incompetent to stand trail, according to the Associated Press. He was the first person to be sentenced to die in connection to a federal hate crime. Roof, who was 21 at the time of his rampage, fired on a group of congregants during the closing prayer of a Bible study at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.
Roof’s lawyers argued during his appeal that he should not have been allowed to represent himself during sentencing, which is a critical phase of his trial. They said that he managed to successfully prevent jurors from hearing evidence about his mental health, “under the delusion,” his attorneys argued, that “he would be rescued from prison by white-nationalists—but only, bizarrely, if he kept his mental-impairments out of the public record.”
Moreover, they contended that his convictions and death sentence should have been vacated or his case should have been sent back to court for a “proper competency evaluation.” The 4th Circuit court, however, did not find that the trial judge had committed an error when he found Roof competent to stand trial and lit Roof up over his crimes.
“Dylann Roof murdered African Americans at their church, during their Bible-study and worship. They had welcomed him. He slaughtered them. 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,” the panel wrote.
“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 judges wrote.
Here is more from the AP:
One of Roof’s attorneys, Margaret Alice-Anne Farrand, a deputy federal public defender, declined to comment on the ruling. Roof’s other attorneys did not immediately respond to emailed requests seeking comment.
The Rev. Kylon Middleton, a close friend of Mother Emanuel Pastor Clementa Pinckney, a state senator who was killed in the massacre, said Roof’s appeal reopened some of the psychological wounds felt by loved ones of the victims and survivors. Middleton said he is personally opposed to the death penalty, but had accepted that as the sentence Roof received.
“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.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathan Williams, one of the lead prosecutors on the case, said the mass shooting was one of the worst events in South Carolina’s history.
“Our office is grateful for the decision of the court, a decision that ensures, as the Court stated, that ‘the harshest penalty a just society can impose’ is indeed imposed,” Williams said in a statement.
All of the judges in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers South Carolina, recused themselves from hearing Roof’s appeal; one of their own, Judge Jay Richardson, prosecuted Roof’s case as an assistant U.S. Attorney. The panel that heard arguments in May and issued the ruling on Wednesday was comprised of judges from several other appellate circuits.
Following his federal trial, Roof was given nine consecutive life sentences after pleading guilty in 2017 to state murder charges, leaving him to await execution in a federal prison and sparing his victims and their families the burden of a second trial.
In July, Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a moratorium and halted all federal executions while the Justice Department conducts a review of its execution policies and procedures. This halt comes after the end of Trump’s time as president, when 13 executions were conducted in six months. President Joe Biden said he wanted to end federal executions during his run as a White House candidate. In March, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that Biden still has “grave concerns” about it.
As vice president, Biden attended the funeral of state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, one of those killed by Roof and who also pastored the congregation. Biden referred to the murders often during his 2020 presidential campaign, saying that his visit to Mother Emanuel helped him heal from the death of his son, Beau.
Roof has a few long-shot options. For one, his lawyers could ask the full 4th Circuit to reconsider the panel’s ruling. If that doesn’t work, he could file a 2255 appeal, a request that the trial court review the constitutionality of his conviction and sentence, according to the AP. Other options included petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court or seeking a presidential pardon from Biden.