Jury sentences Dylann Roof to death

By Patrick Phillips, WMBF

CHARLESTON, S.C. -- (WMBF) -- A federal jury decided the man convicted in the 2015 Charleston church shootings should be put to death.

Word of the jury's decision on whether Dylann Roof, 22, will face life in prison with no parole or death in the June 17, 2015, shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church in downtown Charleston came shortly after the judge instructed jurors to use their common sense to answer questions they presented to the court.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel discussed the three questions with the prosecution and Roof, who is acting as his own counsel in the penalty phase of the trial, before the jury returned to the courtroom.

Jurors first wanted to know about a mitigating factor related to whether Roof poses a risk of violence in prison. They asked if that meant he personally could inflict violence on other inmates or prison staff or whether he could also incite violence.

"I think it means what it means," Gergel said about the portion of the charge they are currently addressing.

They also asked about a mitigating factor related to whether the definition of "safely confined" includes also Roof's writings getting out of prison.

There was back and forth between the judge, the prosecution, and Roof's standby counsel, attorney David Bruck. Gergel sided with the prosecution on the first two questions that it wasn't his place to now redefine and possibly narrow the definition of aggravating and mitigating factors.

"I told them in every aspect of this, they are to make an individual determination," Gergel said.

Gergel told the jury he couldn't come back and further define that, telling them they needed to use good sense and common logic to read the jury charge and interpret definitions for themselves.

Several jurors nodded when the judge said this, as if they understood they needed to rely solely on the charge.

The third question was a request to view a piece of evidence in the jury room. Specifically, they wanted to watch a video of State Sen. and the Rev. Clementa Pinckney's speech on the history of the church. Pinckney, the church's pastor, was one of the nine victims.

Jurors gave no indication as to why they wanted to watch the video again, but Gergel said the court would arrange for the video to be replayed in the jury room.

Earlier Tuesday, Roof, who was convicted in December of 33 federal hate crime and weapons charges, delivered his own closing arguments to the jury after the prosecution delivered theirs.

In his brief statement, he spoke directly to jurors who will decide whether he will receive a sentence of life without parole or death.

"I think it's safe to say no one in their right mind wants to go in a church and kill people," Roof said. "You may remember in my confession I said I had to do it. I guess that's not really true. I didn't have to do it, no one made me do it. What I meant when I said that was I felt like I had to do it and I still feel like I had to do it."

FULL STORY: Jury sentences Dylann Roof to death - WMBF