Last year, a white man entered a Charleston church and killed nine of its black parishioners. The accused, Dylann Roof, has waived his right to a jury trial, according to Reuters. Attorneys filed a notice Thursday in U.S. District Court. Roof has opted to have his sentence handed down by a judge instead. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Dylann Roof and will object to the request.
“Pursuant to this order, the defendant hereby states that he is willing to waive jury, and to be tried and sentenced by the court,” read the notice filed by Roof’s lawyers David Bruck and Michael O’Connell.
According to witnesses, Dylann Roof entered Charleston’s historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on June 17, 2015. He joined a Bible study and spent about an hour with the group of black worshipers before the massacre. Dylann Roof then allegedly opened fire on them, killing nine persons including State Senator Clementa C. Pinckney, a senior pastor. He shot each victim multiple times.
When one of the witnesses asked him to stop, Dylann Roof allegedly replied, “No, you’ve raped our women, and you are taking over the country. I have to do what I have to do.”
The Charleston church is the oldest AME church in the South and was co-founded by Denmark Vesey, a leader in a slave revolt who was executed by the government in 1822.
Prosecutors allege that Dylann Roof targeted the Charleston church because its parishioners are black, reports USA Today.
Dylann Roof fled the Charleston church but was captured the next day in Shelby, North Carolina. Dylann Roof’s father and uncle turned him in to the police when they saw surveillance images of the shooter. Roof later confessed to the shootings, saying he hoped to ignite a race war. The website, The Last Rhodesian, was discovered days later and linked to Dylann Roof. The website featured photos of Roof with symbols of white supremacy and neo-Nazism. He also detailed his chilling opinions in a manifesto.
“I have no choice. I am not in the position to, alone, go into the ghetto and fight. I chose Charleston because it is most historic city in my state, and at one time had the highest ratio of blacks to Whites in the country. We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the internet. Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me.”
Dylann Roof, who dropped out of high school in the 10th grade, was shuffled around schools between his divorced parents. His friends described him as being “aloof.”
“Anyone who thinks that White and black people look as different as we do on the outside, but are somehow magically the same on the inside, is delusional,” he wrote. “How could our faces, skin, hair, and body structure all be different, but our brains be exactly the same?”
The filing by Roof’s attorneys said, “Counsel for the government has informed defense counsel that the government will not consent to waive jury at either stage of this case.”
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel set a date of Nov. 7 for the federal trial against Roof to begin. A state capital punishment trial is also scheduled for January. Dylann Roof faces different charges in the Charleston church shooting on both state and federal levels. The state has charged him with murder and attempted murder. Federal prosecutors have charged him with 33 counts including hate crimes, obstruction of religion, and firearms offenses.
Jury selection for the state trial is set to start in December and could overlap the federal case.
[Photo by Grace Beahm/AP Images]