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Dylann Roof faces possible death penalty for South Carolina church shootings

Dylann Roof faces possible death penalty for South Carolina church shootings

The New York Times reports that the Justice Department is seeking the death penalty in the trial of Dylann Roof, who killed nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.:

“Following the department’s rigorous review process to thoroughly consider all relevant factual and legal issues, I have determined that the Justice Department will seek the death penalty,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement about the case against Mr. Roof, who was arrested less than a day after the shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, a historic and predominantly black congregation.

“The nature of the alleged crime and the resulting harm,” Ms. Lynch continued, “compelled this decision.”

In a separate seven-page filing in Federal District Court in Charleston, prosecutors cited nine aggravating factors, including that Mr. Roof had “expressed hatred and contempt towards African-Americans, as well as other groups, and his animosity towards African-Americans played a role in the murders charged in the indictment.”

The prosecutors also wrote that Mr. Roof had “demonstrated a lack of remorse” and that he had “targeted men and women participating in a Bible study group at the church in order to magnify the societal impact” of the attack.

From the Washington Post:

Steve Schmutz, a lawyer representing family members of three of the victims, said federal officials held a conference call on Tuesday to inform relatives of the decision. Schmutz said he believed these relatives supported Lynch’s decision.

“Regardless of whether or not you’re for the death penalty, the thought process is this: where else would you have it, if not for here?” Schmutz said.

One of those who lost a loved one affirms Schmutz’s words:

Arthur Hurd, whose wife, 55-year-old Cynthia Hurd, was among the victims, said he thought seeking the death penalty was a “good idea” given the motivation Roof had expressed.

“Since he feels that strongly, then let the law of the land take care of it,” Hurd said.

Hurd said Cynthia, a branch manager at a library, “went out of her way and helped everybody that she can.” On Tuesday, after learning of the government’s decision, Hurd said seeing Roof executed would not bring him any closure. Only a face-to-face conversation with Roof might do that, Hurd said. “Maybe I can get the feeling that, ‘Hey, what in the world were you thinking about?’” he said.

Still, he offered one other thing that he said could help him. “I told them what would really bring me to a point of happiness would be that I was the one that pushed the plunger if he got injected,” Hurd said.

Previous Cafe coverage of the shootings in Charleston:

Charleston SC churches to ring bells Sunday morning

On Charleston: Responses from voices of faith

Charleston updates: Rev. Pinckney is among those killed; suspect is captured

Sad counterpoint to Charleston, SC tragedy from local paper

South Carolina Episcopal bishop responds to Charleston shooting

Nine fatalities reported in shooting at Charleston, S.C. church

Photo credit: By Cal Sr from Newport, NC, US – Colour-corrected version of File:Emanuel_African_Methodist_Episcopal_(AME)_Church.jpg, originally from here


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Philip B. Spivey

I am, to the core, anti-violence and despair of the countless casualties and deaths that occur in our society that are preventable. That said, just as I’ve come to believe there are just wars (precious few), I have come to believe there is “just death” (also, precious few).

When considering capital punishment, it’s too simple to frame it academically; it requires a living and breathing context: State sponsored murder is not academic. State sponsored murder is the gift that keeps on giving, e.g., police murders of unarmed black men; public water systems that are knowingly poisoned; inadequate health care delivery that significantly reduces life spans; internment camps designated as ‘reservations’; so-called neighborhoods that are really incubators of poverty and violence and provide a steady source of inmates for our national prison system; and a criminal justice system that disproportionately imprisons and executes people of color, to name a few. These preventable outcomes kill, sometimes slowly, sometimes without warning.

Black folks might be more inclined to find value in “turning the other check” if that were the coin of the realm. But it isn’t and so we find that we are the ones who must be ‘the resilient ones’ and turn the other check. When Black folks transgress, our society does not ‘turn the other cheek’.

The People of Color/white American dynamic around violence reminds me of a joke my mother once told: Two boys were fighting and one was definitely losing. The loser stopped the fight and recommended some rule changes that would (of course) benefit him. So he said to his opponent: “Let’s do it this way from now on. When I say stop, we’ll stop fighting, OK?” His opponent agreed and so that began to fight except that now, whenever the loser landed a punch, he said ‘Stop!’ Get the picture?

Dylann Roof embodies evil. Dylann Roof is a cold-blooded killer that destroyed nine lives not for gain or treasure, but simply because he hated Black folks and—emboldened by his white supremacist culture— felt it was his duty to eliminate them.

Dylann Roof should not have the privilege of saying: ‘Stop!’

Jerald Liko

Put me down on the side of those opposed to the death sentence. Dylan Roof committed a detestable crime, but as long as he remains human, he is created in the image of God and entitled to the dignity we afford to God. We’ve sentenced God to death once, and last I checked, we are still repenting of it.

Life imprisonment without the possibility of parole is a thoroughly miserable fate, and it is the appropriate punishment for Roof’s heinous acts.

James Byron

If the death penalty’s opposed for devaluing a murderer’s human worth, its slow-motion version, LWP, certainly should be. If anything, I find the thought of caging someone until they drop dead worse than an execution: least the execution’s quick.

Scott Wesley Borden

I find public killing in the name of justice vile. I find Mr Roof vile as well. But what he did is in his own name. Public execution is in all our names.

We need to be clear that execution serves justice in no way. It serves a desire for revenge – which is entirely understandable and fully human. Without this desire I think we would hardly be human. BUT the call from Jesus is not to indulge the revenge desire, but to turn the other cheek. It is not an easy or simple call. For Mr Hurd to express a desire to “push the plunger” is entirely understandable. To act on that desire would be a very different thing.

But to oppose the death penalty is to oppose the death penalty. And I oppose it as much for Mr Roof as for anyone.

James Byron

I agree that, if you oppose CP, your opposition must be consistent, however detestable the murderer.

Feelings are different to principles, though: I could put my name to opposing Roof’s execution, even to arguing that, decades down the line, he should have at least the possibility of parole; I couldn’t, however, lose a night’s sleep over his appointment with the needle.

Jesse Snider

I agree with James Byron. I personally find the death penalty repugnant. And though because of appeals he may never reach the executioner, nevertheless such a sentence expresses our moral outrage at his crime and unrepentant attitudes. May God have mercy on him and move his heart to contrition.

James Byron

I don’t personally agree with capital punishment, but I do agree that, so long as it’s on the books (as it will be for the foreseeable future), this case qualifies.

Since Roof could, if sentenced to death, tie his case up in appeals for decades, it’s largely theoretical. The chances of the sentence ever being executed are, at best, remote.

If it ever is, well, he’s a hate murderer with zero mitigation. I won’t be shedding a tear.

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