Guilty Verdict in Massacre at Charleston Church

Hundreds take part in a Unity Walk sponsored by Emanuel AME Church and the Hate Won'’t Win Movement on June 18, 2016, in Charleston, S.C.(Grace Beahm/The Post And Courier via AP)

The white supremacist who said in a manifesto he wanted to start a race war by attacking churchgoers at an evening Bible study was quickly found guilty today of the nine murders.

A federal jury in Charleston deliberated for two hours before convicting Dylann Roof on 33 counts in the June 2015 massacre at the historic Emanuel AME Church.

The defense acknowledged Roof’s confession to the crime, but tried to paint the 22-year-old killer as a disaffected youth led astray. According to the Post and Courier, Roof said he wants to represent himself in the penalty phase, where he could receive the death penalty.

Roof shot and killed Cynthia Hurd, 54, Susie Jackson, 87, Ethel Lance, 70, Depayne Middleton-Doctor, 49, state Sen. Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41, Tywanza Sanders, 26, the Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74, Sharonda Coleman Singleton, 45, and Myra Thompson, 59, after they welcomed the stranger to join their Bible study; Pinckney pulled up a chair so Roof could sit next to him and provided him with a Bible. Roof opened fire when the victims’ eyes were closed in prayer at the end of the study session.

Authorities said they found lists of other black churches in the area in Roof’s car.

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said the families need to know “we are all still with you” because “while this chapter is now closed, the rest of this book has yet to be written.”

“Your strength and courage has changed Charleston, South Carolina, and our nation forever. We will not ever be able to fully thank you for showing us all the true meaning of righteousness, but what we can do is continue working every single day to ensure that the legacy of the Emanuel 9 lives on forever,” Scott said.

“We know that love can overcome hate, and that united we are greater than the sum of our parts. Because although a racist madman attempted to destroy us, and we will never forget the scars he gave us, what he really ended up doing was showing us what we must do every single day. Believe in love. Trust in each other. And be resolute in our determination to move forward together.”

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) urged the death penalty for Roof, saying “crimes that shock the collective community conscience coupled with overwhelming evidence of guilt warrant society’s ultimate punishment.”

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families as the guilt phase has concluded. In addition to the legacy of the victims, their loved ones, and the broader Charleston and South Carolina communities, we thank the prosecutors and law enforcement officers who have dedicated countless hours in pursuit of what is just,” Gowdy said in a statement. “As the family, friends and congregation of Mother Emanuel continue to heal, may our nation be reminded of what South Carolina learned 18 months ago – what binds us together far exceed whatever may separate us.”

Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), who represents Charleston, said the church families “have shown heavenly grace and inspired people from here at home and around the world to ask ‘how we might then live,’ in light of the example of grace they have indeed walked.”

“It will be important that each one of us continues to pray. In this case, that the jurors will have heavenly guidance as the next phase of the trial begins in January, and they decide whether Mr. Roof should be sentenced to death or spend the rest of his life in prison,” Sanford added. “For now, though, we should all be thankful that there is peace in Charleston, that our legal processes have worked, and that we are on the road to justice being done in the wake of unimaginable tragedy.”

Gov. Nikki Haley tweeted, “It is my hope that the survivors, the families & the people of South Carolina can find some peace in the fact that justice has been served.”