CHARLESTON –– Twelve federal jurors said Tuesday that Dylann Roof, the man who killed nine people in a 2015 massacre at a historically black Charleston, South Carolina, church, should be put to death.
The ten women and two men recommended the death penalty for all 18 counts that carried that as a possible sentence.
Roof will become the first federal hate crime defendant to be sentenced to death, a Justice Department spokesman said.
Judge Richard Gergel will formally sentence Roof on Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. ET. Roof, who represented himself during the penalty phase, told Gergel he wanted to file a motion for new lawyers. Gergel said Roof can argue that on Wednesday but he is not inclined to let that happen.
A group of defense attorneys and others who worked on Roof’s behalf issued a statement, saying the death penalty decision means the case will not be over for a “very long time.”
“We are sorry that, despite our best efforts, the legal proceedings have shed so little light on the reasons for this tragedy,” the statement said.
The jurors did not look at Roof when they came in with the verdict. Several looked in the direction of the victims’ families.
It was very quiet in the courtroom. There was no sound coming from the many family members.
Roof, who was facing away from the media, did not appear to show any reaction to the verdict.
Some of the people in the gallery were dabbing their eyes. Several relatives of those killed gently put their arms around each other.
“Today we had justice for my sister [Cynthia Hurd],” Melvin Graham told reporters. “This is a very hollow victory, because my sister is still gone. I wish that this verdict could have brought her back. But what it can do is just send a message to those who feel the way he feels that this community will not tolerate it.”
Graham said he just wants mass killings to stop.
“Every time I hear about a shooting I want to cry,” he said. “We have to stand together.”
Roof’s family said they will always love him.
“We will struggle as long as we live to understand why he committed this horrible attack, which caused so much pain to so many good people,” they added. “We wish to express the grief we feel for the victims of his crimes, and our sympathy to the many families he has hurt.”
The judge, who is bound by the jury’s decision, complimented the jurors and said they did a magnificent job.
Prosecutors called the decision a result of hard work and said it was a “fair and just process”.