Dylann Roof has been found guilty of 33 counts in the racially motivated murder of nine black people who were attending bible study at a church in South Carolina last year. As the verdicts were read out, family members of the victims could be seen in the public gallery, holding hands and squeezing one another’s arms.
The jury, which was made up of nine white people and three black people, will come back again in the New Year to determine whether Roof will be sentenced to life in jail, or to the death penalty. Roof, 22, simply stared straight ahead, without showing any emotion, as the verdicts were read out.
Before they made their decision, the jury asked to be allowed to hear part of a videotaped confession from Roof again. In the tape, Roof was questioned and talked about how many people he thought he might have killed.
He had told FBI agents that he believed he had killed five people. He expressed surprise when he was told he had actually killed nine during the assault at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church last summer.
Witnesses had told of how Roof had visited Charleton a number of times in the run up to the shooting. The prosecution told the jury that Roof was filled with hate. However, his defence team said he was just a suicidal loner who did not fully understand the seriousness of the crimes he has committed.
The US Attorney Nathan Williams told jurors that Roof had deliberately waiting until the Bible study group members had closed their eyes to say their prayers before opening fire. He said that Roof was ignorant, believing that black people were animals. He killed nine people and a tenth survived. He later told police that he had carried out the shootings in the hope of staring a race war in America.