Charleston shooter gets death sentence

Ms Rose Ann Simmons holding a portrait of her father, Reverend Daniel Simmons, who was shot dead by Roof (below). With her are (from left) Rev Simmons' granddaughter Alana, son Daniel Simmons Jr and wife Annie.
Ms Rose Ann Simmons holding a portrait of her father, Reverend Daniel Simmons, who was shot dead by Roof. With her are (from left) Rev Simmons' granddaughter Alana, son Daniel Simmons Jr and wife Annie.PHOTOS: NYTIMES, REUTERS
Dylann Roof
Dylann Roof PHOTOS: NYTIMES, REUTERS

CHARLESTON (South Carolina)• White supremacist Dylann Roof, sentenced to death on Wednesday for a mass shooting at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, heard forgiveness and fury at his hearing from grieving loved ones of the nine victims.

More than 30 people addressed the court to honour Roof's victims and detail the pain caused by his shooting rampage on June 17, 2015.

He sat silently, staring straight ahead at a wall, as he was berated by angry and tearful family members and friends of the victims, who told him he would "rot in hell".

Others called him "the devil", "the spawn of Satan" or "Satan" himself, a "subhuman miscreant" who was "filled with evil and hate".

Roof fired at least 77 bullets in the deadly attack carried out at the end of a Bible study session in the basement of the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston.

"This trial has produced no winners, only losers," US District Judge Richard Gergel said before issuing Roof his formal sentence.

Relatives of the victims addressed the 22-year-old directly during the proceedings, castigating him for not looking their way or reacting to their words.

He remained impassive, as he did for the entirety of his trial, which began last November and saw him convicted of 33 federal crimes associated with the massacre, including hate crimes resulting in death.

"For you to sit there every day... and never apologise... it's hurtful," said Ms Gayle Jackson, a relative of 87-year-old victim Susie Jackson. "I pray that your soul goes to hell."

Roof sat silently, staring straight ahead at a wall, as he was berated by angry and tearful family and friends of the victims, who told him he would "rot in hell".

But some extended forgiveness to Roof - with the sister-in-law of victim Cynthia Hurd, Ms Sheila Capers, offering to visit him in prison and pray with him.

"I pray that God sends someone to you to reach you," said Ms Capers, "so when you are executed, you'll be able to go to heaven, too."

Roof and his lawyers elected not to address the court following the witness remarks. The defence did not call on any relatives or anyone else to speak on Roof's behalf.

He said little during the proceedings except to ask for new lawyers, having sidelined his legal counsel for parts of the trial in order to represent himself. His request was denied by the judge.

REUTERS,AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 13, 2017, with the headline 'Charleston shooter gets death sentence'. Print Edition | Subscribe