For many people, a 21st birthday present delivered in cash will probably lead to a meaningless splurge; but not for Dylann Roof. Dylann Storm Roof was a young man with a clear manifesto. At 16, he’d read about Trayvon Martin’s shooting and that – along with his other “black-on-white-crime favourites – inspired his desire to start a race war.
So he bought a .45 caliber Glock handgun.
On the 17th of June, 2015, Dylann entered upon a prayer session led by state senator and senior pastor, Clementa C. Pinckney at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, and did his deed: to be known as the Charleston church massacre. This scrawny 21-year old called Roof shot and killed nine black worshippers, injuring one other.
The next day, he was found and arrested then charged with 33 hate crimes punishable in all of the United States.
George Zimmerman, the Hispanic neighbourhood watch co-coordinator who shot Trayvon Martin was acquitted of charges brought against him in relation to the murder on the grounds of self-defense. Self-defense against a teenager who was armed with Skittles, iced tea and a cellphone and whose crimes according to his shooter were that he did not look like he belonged in his gated community and then he dared to walk leisurely home in the rain.
Thankfully, Dylan Roof has not be acquitted on account of self-defence against what we all know could have been the harmful release of the Holy Ghost by the black worshippers at the Emanuel African Baptist Church. The release of the Holy Ghost that could have dared to cure their shooter of his white supremacist leanings.
Rather, Dylann has been convicted of all the 33 counts of hate crimes, obstruction of religious worship and murder he was federally charged with. On December 15th, after only two hours of deliberation, the jury returned a guilty verdict on all the counts. There ordinarily wouldn’t have been any question about this except that this was America where oftentimes, white killers are set free.
Now that he’s been convicted, Dylann Roof must be sentenced. But how? A life sentence with the option of parole? Without parole. Or does he face a chance of being executed?
This has been the most uncertain aspect of the case all along. As regards his state trial in Charleston in connection with the same shooting which is set to begin on the 17th of January, 2017, Dylann offered to plead guilty to the state charges in exchange for a sentence of life in prison without parole as opposed to what state prosecutor, Scarlett Wilson has in mind – to seek the death penalty.
So this killer doesn’t want to die.
The Justice Department – in charge of his federal trial – is seeking a death sentence for 18 of the 33 counts Roof was convicted of the 15th and they will be arguing along the lines of off the aggravating factors the jurors must consider in favour of a death sentence while Roof’s lawyers will argue along the lines mitigation of his sentence.
Roof has chosen to represent himself during the penalty portion of the trial dismissing his attorney, David Bruck, who has tried to introduce a new line of thinking that might bring “expert evidence relating to a mental disease or defect or any other mental condition bearing on the issue of punishment.”
However, the factors to consider in the penalty trial go beyond the arguments either the prosecution or defense may put forward. Rather, the concerns of the American populace on the issue of capital punishment as well as whether the country can really afford another execution to make its fourth since in 1988.
It is also interesting to note that Roof has declined to heed his attorney’s call for medical experts to prove some mental impairment that could eventually mitigate his punishment. According to him “it is a Jewish invention, and does nothing but invent diseases and tell people they have problems when they don’t.”
We’ll, of course, keep watching to see how this unfolds.
Follow @ynaija on Twitter