Three judges for the United States 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Court decided on Wednesday to uphold the conviction and death sentence of Dylann Roof for the racist killings of nine members of a Black church.
Roof killed nine Black people at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2016. Roof, who was 21 at the time, spent several months planning the attack with hopes of starting a race war.
“Dylann Roof murdered African Americans at their church, during their bible-study and worship,” the judges wrote in the opinion.
“No cold record or careful parsing of statutes and precedents can capture the full horror of what Roof did,” the judges wrote. “His crimes qualify him for the harshest penalty that a just society can impose.”
“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.”
Roof was found guilty of 33 federal charges for the shooting. He was sentenced to death in 2017, becoming the first person to be sentenced to death for a federal hate crime.
Roof appealed his death sentence last year. His lawyers argue that he was mentally unfit to represent himself during his trial and that he was a ninth-grade dropout “who believed his sentence didn’t matter because White nationalists would free him from prison after an impending race war.”
Criminal Chief Nathan Williams with the U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina, who served as one of the lead prosecutors on the case, released a statement following the court’s affirmation, saying:
“The Mother Emmanuel AME Church massacre committed by the hate-filled murderer Dylann Roof is one of the worst events in not only South Carolina’s history but also our nation’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. Moreover, our office is grateful that justice will be served for the victims, survivors, and their families.”