Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said he hopes the death sentence handed down to a white supremacist killer will be “a pivotal moment” toward “some sort of closure.”
A federal jury in Charleston deliberated for two hours last month before convicting Dylann Roof on 33 counts in the June 2015 massacre at the historic Emanuel AME Church.
The decision Tuesday that he should die took nearly three hours, according to the Post and Courier.
“I think it’s safe to say that someone in their right mind wouldn’t go into a church and kill people,” Roof said in court before the sentence was handed down. “You might remember in my confession to the FBI, I told them I had to do it. Obviously, that isn’t true because I didn’t have to do it. I didn’t have to do anything. But what I meant when I said that was I felt like I had to do that. And I still feel like I had to do it.”
The defense acknowledged Roof’s confession to the crime, but tried to paint the 22-year-old killer as a disaffected youth led astray. With no remorse, Roof represented himself in the penalty phase.
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.
“Nineteen months ago, a heartless murderer attempted to start a race war. He believed the damage his racist hands wrought would undo Charleston, South Carolina, and maybe even the nation,” Scott said after the sentence was handed down. “Today that man was rightly sentenced to death.”
The senator added that “testimony of survivors and the families of those killed and injured at Mother Emanuel throughout this trial… once again left me in awe.”
“Hearing firsthand recollections of that night, learning even more about how much the families of those killed loved and cared for them, I am sure I am not the only one overwhelmed with emotion,” he said.
“While we can never bring back the Emanuel 9, we can ensure their legacy will live on forever. We will continue to stand behind the families, and their message of unity. Today is a pivotal moment in their road towards some sort of closure, and we will all be there with them on that journey. To the families of the Emanuel 9, I say thank you. In your loss, you have given all of us more than we ever thought possible.”