Dylann Roof Convicted in Murder of 9 Black Churchgoers

Roof leaving court after an earlier hearing, July 2015. Photo via AP

A South Carolina jury convicted Dylann Roof Wednesday of murdering black churchgoers at a church, after first sitting with them at a Bible study class. Roof, a 22-year-old high school dropout, has chosen to represent himself at the sentencing phase of his trial, which will decide whether he gets the death penalty.

The New York Times reports that Roof was convicted of nine counts of hate crimes resulting in death, three counts of hate crimes involving an attempt to kill—for the three people who survived—nine counts of obstructing the exercise of religion resulting in death, three counts of obstructing the exercise of religion with an attempt to kill, and nine counts of using a firearm to commit murder during a crime of violence.

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As the Los Angeles Times reports, Roof has clashed with his defense attorney David Bruck, who’s strongly suggesting that Roof is mentally unstable:

“The issue in this case from the beginning has been and continues to be why,” Bruck told jurors. “Consider the mad energy, the irrationality, the senselessness. Consider where it came from, how illogical the entire story was.

“There is something wrong with his perceptions,” Bruck said.

Repeatedly, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel reprimanded Bruck for bringing up the subject of Roof’s mental state.

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An earlier hearing about Roof’s mental state was closed to the public, the L.A. Times reports. Bruck wasn’t able to introduce testimony from a psychiatrist and a psychologist who would’ve testified on Roof’s mental state, with the judge ruling that their testimony “had no bearing on the issue of his guilt” according to the State newspaper. Roof declined to testify, and so Bruck rested his case without calling any defense witnesses.

The sentencing phase will begin Thursday. Roof faces the possibility of life in prison or death. During the trial, one survivor, Polly Sheppard, recounted Roof standing over her, pointing a gun.

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“Did I shoot you yet?” he asked, according to her testimony. When she said no, he responded, “I’m not going to. I need you to tell the story.”

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About the author

Anna Merlan

Anna Merlan was a Senior Reporter at G/O Media until September 2019. She's the author of Republic of Lies: American Conspiracy Theorists and Their Surprising Rise to Power.

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