Dylann Roof Won't Try To Save His Life In Looming Death Penalty Trial

The convicted murderer and white supremacist says he won't call witnesses or introduce evidence.

Dylann Roof, the 22-year-old white supremacist convicted of murdering nine members of a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, last year, will do little to spare his own life during the death penalty phase of his federal trial next month. 

Roof, who is representing himself for the final phase of his federal hate crimes trial, said in court Wednesday that he will offer opening and closing arguments but no defense. 

“As far as I know, I am not intending to offer any evidence at all or call any witnesses whatsoever,” Roof told U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel, according to The Post and Courier

Roof was represented by David Bruck, a famed federal public defender in death penalty cases, after backtracking on his initial plan to represent himself during the guilt phase of his trial. 

On Wednesday, Gergel gave Roof a note of caution regarding his intentions to self-represent.  

“Don’t do them any favors,” Gergel said of the prosecutors, according to The Post and Courier. “They aren’t going to do you any.”

Roof was convicted earlier in December on 33 federal charges, including hate crimes and the obstruction of the practice of religion.

Roof carried out his brutal, racially motivated attack on the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, commonly referred to as “Mother Emanuel,” in June 2015.

He was welcomed by the congregation and invited to stay for their Bible study before he massacred parishioners Cynthia Hurd, Ethel Lance, Susie Jackson, Daniel Simmons, Tywanza Sanders, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, DePayne Middleton Doctor, Myra Thompson and Clementa Pinckney, AME’s pastor.

Sanders’ mother, Felicia, survived the attack and testified during the trial that when her son asked Roof why he was killing them, Roof stated: “I have to do this because y’all raping our women and taking over the world.”  

In video testimony with investigators, Roof reportedly laughed as he admitted, “I am guilty,” but also said flatly that his taking of nine innocent lives makes him “feel bad.” 

Based on notebooks found in his car and elsewhere, Roof wrote of being moved by the killing of Trayvon Martin in which he sided with the black teen’s killer, George Zimmerman. Roof hoped his massacre would start a race war, one of his friends told investigators.

Roof faces two trials in which the death penalty is an option, something considered nearly unprecedented in the modern era. Following his federal trial, Roof’s state trial will begin in Charleston on Jan. 17. 

Even if Roof receives the death penalty in both trials, the likelihood he will actually face execution is uncertain. 

The federal death penalty is rarely carried out; the U.S. government has executed just 37 people since the 1920s. The most recent federal execution was carried out in 2003.

South Carolina, which still has the death penalty, would be more likely to carry out an execution, though it has not held once since 2011. In the interim, the narrow list of approved lethal injection drugs have become increasingly scarce, prompting states to either slow down or altogether halt their executions or attempt to create new methods like the nitrogen gas chamber. 

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post misidentified Timothy McVeigh in 2001 as the person most recently executed by the federal government. The most recent was Louis Jones in 2003.



Charleston Church Shooting Victims