The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Harriet McLeod

CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) – A federal magistrate on Friday entered a “temporary” not guilty plea for Dylann Roof on hate crime charges in the slaying of nine African-Americans at a South Carolina church, even as his lawyer said his client wanted to plead guilty.

The lead defense attorney, David Bruck, said he could not advise Roof, 21, to declare his guilt in the massacre until after prosecutors said whether they would seek capital punishment.

“Roof has told us he wishes to plead guilty,” Bruck told the court. “Until we know whether the government will seek the death penalty, we cannot advise Mr. Roof.”

The “not guilty” plea entered into the court record by U.S. Magistrate Judge Bristow Marchant on Roof’s behalf can be changed later. Final motions are due on August 20.

“We believe he understands the tremendous crime that he committed and the heinousness of it,” Eduardo Curry, an attorney representing the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the site of last month’s massacre, said outside the courtroom.

More than two dozen survivors and relatives of the victims of last month’s killings attended the hearing, where Roof was arraigned on 33 federal hate crime and firearms charges.

The counts add to the raft of state murder and attempted murder counts he already faces. Roof has not yet entered a plea on the state charges.

Some of the relatives and survivors came to the front of the courtroom to make statements, many of them in tears.

“For the rest of his life I want him to hear my thoughts,” said Tyrone Sanders, referring to the defendant.

“I am hurting inside for what he is accused of doing,” said Sanders, father of victim Tywanza Sanders, 26, and husband of Felicia Sanders, who survived. “I want him to think about what I’m thinking and continue to think about it.”

At an earlier appearance in state court, family members riveted the country by expressing heartfelt forgiveness to Roof, saying their Christian faith compelled them to rise above their grief.

Their statements, coming just two days after the slayings, helped spark intense soul-searching in the United States over race relations and led to the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina capitol grounds.

Neither federal nor state prosecutors have decided whether they will seek the death penalty if Roof is convicted.

The federal charges are based on evidence that the suspect targeted the victims “because of their race and in order to interfere with their exercise of religion,” U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said last week in announcing the indictment.

Roof planned the murders for months with the “goal of increasing racial tensions throughout the nation and seeking retribution for perceived wrongs he believed African-Americans had committed against white people,” Lynch said.

He singled out the nearly 200-year-old church known as “Mother Emanuel” because of its historical significance in the African-American community, Lynch said.

Roof signaled his criminal intent in a racist manuscript posted on his website, she said.

(Writing by Frank McGurty; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Photo: Dylann Storm Roof appears by closed-circuit television at his bond hearing in Charleston, South Carolina, June 19, 2015 in a still image from video. REUTERS/POOL


Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

MAGA Children's Books

The GOP descent into full-blown conspiracy and fascist hell has not gone unnoticed as of late. With the right-wing dominated Supreme Court poised to finally overturn Roe V Wade and 2022 races focusing on backing Republicans who support Trump's 2020 election lies, democracy and decency are all but dead and Democrats are going to have to turn out big in the midterms to prevent a GOP takeover over the House or Senate.

But while the focus of progressive ire has been over the GOP's assault on reproductive rights, Republicans have also been waging a war on facts and education quite well. After all, they need their voters nice and ignorant to remain in power. Book banning and, sickeningly, book burning is a thing for the GOP in the year 2022. The state of Tennessee, for example, is banning books. In fact, a psychotic trump zealot pastor led an actual book-burning event.

Keep reading... Show less

Pat McCrory

Youtube Screenshot

If former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory is any indication, the GOP primary wounds wrought in the last several months stand a good chance of bleeding into the general election this fall.

McCrory, who lost his bid Tuesday to become the Republican nominee for the Tar Heel State's open Senate seat, declined to endorse his GOP rival, Rep. Ted Budd, the Trump endorsee.

Keep reading... Show less
{{ }}