Yesterday, self-confessed white supremacist Dylann Roof was found guilty of the killing of nine black worshipers at a historic Charleston church last July. Roof, who was apprehended shortly after the attacks, calmly confessed to FBI agents that he was responsible for the attacks, and told investigators that he intended to start a race war.
Roof pleaded not guilty to 33 federal charges, including nine counts of murder, hate crimes resulting in death, firearms charges, and obstructing the exercise of religion. The trial lasted a week, as survivors of the attack recounted witnessing Roof firing 70 rounds at parishioners attending a Bible study. Roof's mother had a heart attack while hearing the witnesses' testimony, and had to be taken to the hospital.
Prosecutors read the jury excerpts from Roof's racist writings and showed a video of the 22-year-old laughing after he confessed to the shooting. During his closing argument, federal prosecutor Nathan Williams said that Roof "executed” the worshipers “because he believed they were nothing more than animals. His actions in the church are the best reflections of the vastness of his hatred." It only took the jury two hours to find Roof guilty on all 33 counts.
Next month, a jury will decide whether he faces life in prison or the death penalty. Roof's attorneys have challenged the federal death penalty, calling it an "arbitrary, cruel and unusual punishment" that violates the Fifth and Eighth Amendments. Roof is also facing state murder charges in South Carolina, where he could also be face the death penalty.