Dylann Roof Found Guilty Of All Counts Of Killing 9 Black Worshippers

Dec 15, 2016
Originally published on December 15, 2016 6:36 pm
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

After less than two hours of deliberation, a federal jury in Charleston, S.C., has found Dylann Roof guilty on all 33 charges. Roof killed nine members of a Bible study class at Charleston's Emanuel AME Church in June 2015. The charges against Roof included hate crimes, obstructing the practice of religion and using a gun to commit a violent crime. The case will next move to the penalty phase, and a federal prosecutor plans to seek the death penalty.

NPR's Debbie Elliott has been covering the trial. She joins us now from Charleston. I know, Debbie, that you just left the courtroom. What was the reaction there when the verdict was read?

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, BYLINE: You know, it was a very somber courtroom. There weren't cheers or hugs even in the courtroom. There were just some slow nodding of heads. And this was a long and drawn out verdict because on each of those 33 counts, they named the victims and the crime.

These were hate crimes, crimes of obstructing religion and crimes of using a firearm for these murders. So people, as they heard their loved ones' names called out, would nod their heads in agreement like, OK, yes.

CORNISH: And I take it that many people did expect a guilty verdict here.

ELLIOTT: They did. You know, the defense didn't put up any witnesses, and his own lawyer admitted that, you know, we're not going to refute what happened here. He urged them to start to consider why, you know? He painted Dylann Roof as this loner, this suicidal person who was delusional. But the jury didn't buy that and found him guilty on all of these charges.

CORNISH: Now, as we mentioned earlier, federal prosecutors are planning to ask for the death penalty. Given what you've seen in the case so far, what are their chances?

ELLIOTT: Well, I can't speculate on chances, but this jury clearly has seen the evidence. And now they have to consider whether he should be put to death for these crimes. Now, Dylann Roof indicated in the courtroom just now that he plans to represent himself during that phase of the case.

CORNISH: You've been covering this trial for some time. What moments have stuck out to you?

ELLIOTT: You know, it's just been a very emotional time listening to the evidence that was presented and knowing that an entire half of this courtroom was filled with family members of the victims and two of the survivors of this attack.

So people have really been wrestling with exactly what happened in the basement of that church, and that has been a very difficult thing for people to have to sit through. You know, at times jurors, even the judge, seemed visibly upset by what they were hearing about what happened that night at the end of Bible study.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Debbie Elliott in Charleston, S.C. Debbie, thank you.

ELLIOTT: Thank you, Audie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.