Families now addressing Dylann Roof in formal sentencing hearing

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) — Family members of the Emanuel AME Church shooting victims have spent nearly two hours talking directly to Dylann Roof, the man who perpetrated the attack on the church in June 2015.

Some, like Dan Simmons Jr and Rose Simmons, offered forgiveness.

"I have never nor am I surprised, have I looked for remorse or accountability or even sorrow from your heart. I know at this time it's not there," said Rose Simmons. "But surprisingly Mr. Roof I grieve for you because your heart refuses to recognize and yield to this great power of forgiveness."

Rev. Daniel Simmons' son called on Roof to look at him as he spoke, but Roof only stared ahead.

"Understand this, understand that as you have been judged, know that you have an opportunity to ask for forgiveness. Know that you can change your life. Stay focused. I guarantee if you choose to serve him you will have a better life," he said. "I forgive you."

Others were more harsh in their criticisms of Roof.

"To the devil sitting here today, I won't even give you the honor of saying your name because you don't deserve the recognition," said Rev. Depayne Middleton Doctor's niece. "How dare you sit here every day looking dumb faced, acting like you did nothing wrong, and had the nerve to insinuate you were misled. How dare you even smile or smirk... I've wanted to wipe that smile off your face myself. You are the biggest coward I have ever seen in my life because you can't be a man and look at us!"

Other speakers included Alanna Simmons, Rev. Simmons' granddaughter who started a nonprofit in the wake of the shooting, and Kenya Pinckney, Rev. Clementa Pinckney's brother, who did not address Roof at all, opting to thank the court and the attorneys for their swift justice.

More than a dozen people have spoken since the start of the hearing, and it's expected more than a dozen more will speak before everything is done. It's all part of the process of finalizing the death sentence for Roof.

Roof, who was convicted last month of committing hate crimes and crimes against religious practice by carrying out the race-based killings at Emanuel AME Church in 2015, will return to federal court for the last time.

During the hearing, he has to listen as family members of the nine victims address him and explain how his actions have forever changed their lives.

In his closing statement on Tuesday, Roof clarified something he said to FBI investigators on the day after the shooting at Emanuel.

He said he did not have to shoot the bibel study group, but he felt like he had to. He added he still felt like he had to.

Roof also stopped short of asking the jurors to spare his life, only telling them that one person in dissent could keep him from being killed by the government.

U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson pointed to that as one of many signs that show Roof feels no remorse and will not change.

After the verdict was announced, lawmakers, family members, and the United States Attorney General applauded the jury's decision.

Roof still faces another trial in Charleston, in state court on murder charges. Solicitor Scarlett Wilson is seeking the death penalty in that case as well.

But that trial is currently on hold indefinitely. Wilson has not said since the verdict was handed down on Tuesday whether she still plans to try Roof.

 

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