CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Dylann Roof
threw away one last chance to plead for his life in front of the
jurors who convicted him of killing nine black churchgoers, telling
them Tuesday: "I still feel like I had to do it."
The jury's decision must be unanimous.
If the panel is unable to agree on whether the white gunman should be
executed, he automatically gets a life sentence.
Roof walked to the podium less than 10
feet from the jury box with a yellow sheet of paper. He put it down
and looked past jurors for about 30 seconds before beginning to read
off the page.
Every juror looked directly at Roof as
he spoke for about five minutes. A few nodded as he reminded them
that they said during jury selection they could fairly weigh the
factors of his case. Only one of them, he noted, had to disagree to
spare his life.
"I have the right to ask you to
give me a life sentence, but I'm not sure what good it would do
anyway," he said.
Roof paused several times, but jurors
never took their eyes off him. After one of the pauses, he abruptly
said, "That's all," quickly gathered his sheet of paper and
walked back to the defense table.
Jurors began their deliberations early
The attacker specifically picked out
Emanuel AME Church, the South's oldest black church, to carry out the
cold, calculated slaughter, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson
The 12 people Roof targeted on June 17,
2015, opened the door for a stranger with a smile, he said. Three
people survived the attack.
"They welcomed a 13th person that
night ... with a kind word, a Bible, a handout and a chair,"
Richardson said during his closing argument. "He had come with a
hateful heart and a Glock .45."
The gunman sat with the Bible study
group for about 45 minutes. During the final prayer — when
everyone's eyes were closed — he started firing. He stood over some
of the fallen victims, shooting them again as they lay on the floor,
The prosecutor reminded jurors about
each one of the victims and the bloody scene that Roof left in the
church's lower level.
The jury convicted him last month of
all 33 federal charges he faced, including hate crimes. Roof did not
explain his actions to jurors, saying only that "anyone who
hates anything in their mind has a good reason for it."
In his FBI confession, Roof said he
hoped the massacre would bring back segregation or start a race war.
Nearly two dozen friends and relatives
of the victims testified during the sentencing phase of the trial.
They shared cherished memories and talked about a future without a
mother, father, sister or brother. They shed tears, and their voices
shook, but none of them said whether Roof should face the death
Richardson recalled Jennifer Pinckney's
remarks about her husband, Clementa, who was remembered for singing
goofy songs and watching cartoons with their young daughters in his
spare time. He was the church pastor and a state senator.
Roof acted as his own attorney and did
not question any witnesses or put up any evidence.