Fury, forgiveness at condemned South Carolina church gunman’s sentencing

FILE PHOTO - Charleston County Sheriff's Office handout booking photo of Dylann Roof
Dylann Roof is seen in this June 18, 2015 handout booking photo provided by Charleston County Sheriff's Office. Courtesy of Charleston County Sheriff's Office/Handout via REUTERS

January 12, 2017

By Harriet McLeod

CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) – White supremacist Dylann Roof, condemned to death for a mass shooting at a Charleston, South Carolina, church, heard forgiveness and fury at his sentencing hearing on Wednesday from grieving loved ones of the nine slain black parishioners.

Some victims’ family members called the 22-year-old Roof evil and deserving of the death penalty for the June 17, 2015, attack at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the oldest African-American congregation in the American South.

“I want your soul to burn in hell,” said Gayle Jackson, a niece of 87-year-old victim Susie Jackson.

Others said their Christian faith required them to forgive. They echoed comments at Roof’s first court appearance after the shooting, where several victims’ relatives shocked the country with their merciful tone toward the suspect.

“I wanted to hate you, God, I wanted to hate you, but my faith told me no,” Bethane Middleton Brown, sister of victim DePayne Middleton Doctor, 49, said on Wednesday.

As they spoke, several family members asked Roof to look at them. He did not.

A jury of nine whites and three blacks last month found Roof guilty of 33 federal charges, including hate crimes and obstruction of religion resulting in death. On Tuesday, the jurors recommended he be put to death.

Wednesday’s sentencing by U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel was a formality after the jury’s unanimous verdict. Roof, who also faces a death sentence if convicted of state murder charges, is unlikely to be executed anytime soon due to a lengthy appeals process.

“I wish they could enact another law to cut off a limb each time you go up to appeal,” said Tyrone Sanders, whose son, Tywanza Sanders, 26, died in the shooting.

Also killed were Clementa Pinckney, 41, the church’s pastor and a state senator; Sharonda Coleman Singleton, 45; Cynthia Hurd, 54; Ethel Lance, 70; Myra Thompson, 59; and Daniel Simmons Sr., 74.

Roof, representing himself during the penalty phase, presented no evidence and did not argue that his life be spared.

Felicia Sanders, 59, witnessed the death of her son and fellow churchgoers gathered to study Scripture. Holding her bloodstained Bible, she told Roof she no longer felt comfortable closing her eyes to pray after he opened fire during a benediction.

“You’re in my head every day,” she said. “Yes, I forgave you. That was the easiest thing I had to do. But you can’t help someone who won’t help themselves.”

(Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Alan Crosby and Jonathan Oatis)

  • Jack Green

    Why does everything have to string out so long when it is a known FACT that he murdered those people. He is wasting good oxygen that decent people could be breathing. Get a good rope, don’t waste time and money on lethal injections and get it done. He showed absolutely no compassion for those he murdered.

  • Judy Kempen

    The relatives cannot forgive this man. Only those he executed. He will face them later. Forgiveness does not enter into this. Only consequences of our actions should be considered. Why was there even a trial when he admitted he did it? Why all these appeals? Execute him and be done with. Ridiculous lawyers stretching out every bloody thing to extract more money from people and government agencies.

  • bucketnutz

    This guy wanted the Death Penalty, he did not want to be in jail for the rest of his life, so the Jury gave him what he wanted.

    • dan Lindsey

      Problem is he will be 60 years old before all the appeals have run their course. In cases like this that are so public with hundreds of witnesses, unrefuitable evidence of the wanton murders and total hate demonstrated by the murder, the case should go directly to the Governor or President for consideration of clemency within no longer than 90 days. If not granted then hang him by the neck until dead at a Saturday picnic at noon and bring the children to show what happens to you when you murder people like this. Be a whole lots less insane people out there killing people.

      • bucketnutz

        Not if he does it like the Oklahoma Bomber did

  • Dave Chandler


  • Glenda Hammer

    I would never ever forgive him. If he ever received any forgiveness, he’d have to get it from God, because he’d never get it from me. He needs to end up under Hell, because Hell is to good for him.

  • Clinicaleducator1

    This guy need to die!!!!