Dylann Roof: Charleston Shooter’s Trial Begins With Emotional Testimony From Survivor Felicia Sanders

On the first day of the Dylann Roof trial, Felicia Sanders, one of four survivors of a domestic terrorist attack that took the lives of nine victims shared a soul-wrenching testimony. Twenty-two-year-old Roof was the infamous Charleston shooter who sat through a Bible study with nine people at Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, then killed Sanders son, elderly aunt, and six of her friends. He said nothing the entire time but waited for the benediction and fired a Glock.45 77 times.

Sanders was an eyewitness to the violence and experienced the fear first-hand. She testified that her wounded son, Tywanza Sanders, 26, who later died, pleaded with Roof that he didn’t have to continue shooting. The shooter’s response was racial insults and grievances that African Americans were supposedly committing against the white race.

“I have to do this, because y’all [black men] are raping our women and y’all are taking over our world.”

After Tywanza’s plea, Roof pumped five more bullets into him. Sanders said she saw her son come into the world and witnessed him leave it. Additionally, her 11-year-old granddaughter, the daughter of Tywanza was also present and survived. Her 87-year-old aunt, Susie Jackson, was one of the nine victims. At one point in Sanders testimony, she looked at Roof and called him, “evil, evil, evil,” according to CBS News.

Dylann Roof at Centralized Bond Hearing [Image by Grace Beahm-Pool/Getty Images]

Court-appointed defense attorneys have offered little defense, meaning the fact that Roof murdered nine people in cold blood is not in question. All attorneys can now do is attempt to save Roof from the death penalty. Initially, the shooter dismissed attorneys and said that he would represent himself, but he later asked them to return for the sentencing phase of the trial. Roof has made it clear that he will represent himself during the guilt phase of the trial.

Fox News reports, Jonathan Serrie, mentioned that there are reasons a client would not want attorney representation during the sentencing phase (see above video). Two of the reasons could be embarrassing incident’s from the past, such as abuse or mental illness.

Meanwhile, the lead prosecutor, Julius N. Richardson, an assistant United States Attorney painted a picture of Roof as an evil, cold-hearted individual who had an agenda and executed it, reported the New York Times.

“We will prove to you that the defendant’s attack was cold and calculating. It was done with malice in his heart, in his mind, racist retribution for perceived offenses against the white race.”

Trials like this cause ambivalent feelings about the death penalty to resurface. Seemingly, a case like this one where there was no reason for Roof to attack people, with the added element of a hate crime, are ones that the death penalty might deter. On the other hand, it will not bring the victims back, but for others, it is the only justice that can be served.

Dylann Roof mugshot [Image by Lexington County Sheriff’s Department/Getty Images]

It took forethought, hatred and malice for Roof to follow through with killing the victims. When he confessed in June 2015 to police, he said that everyone was so nice to him that he found it difficult to go through with the heinous crime. He decided to “go through with his mission,” per NBC News.

What is to be done with individuals like Roof who have no respect for life — at least the lives of those that they deem to be inferior to their own? He is a self-proclaimed white supremacist who murdered nine people. There will be a conviction, and during the sentencing phase, he will likely face multiple life sentences in prison without the possibility of parole or a death sentence.

Either sentence for Dylann Roof will be the end of life as he once knew it. In prison, he is likely to suffer in inconceivable ways and if he receives the death penalty, he will be on death row many years before appeals are exhausted and the sentence is finally executed. There are no easy answers, but justice is what the families of the victims, the state, and people of Charleston seek.

[Featured Image by Grace Beahm-Pool/Getty Images]

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