CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA —
Dylann Roof tells jurors he could ask for life in prison for 9 church slayings, but not sure 'what good that would do'
Roof went to a historic black church in Charleston with a gun and a "hateful heart" and should be put to death for opening fire on people who had gathered for Bible study, a prosecutor said Tuesday.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson told jurors who will soon begin deliberating Roof's fate that the 12 people at Emanuel AME on the night of June 17, 2015, were God fearing church members who opened the door for a white stranger with a smile. Nine of them were slain and three survived.
"They welcomed a 13th person that night ... with a kind word, a Bible, a handout and a chair," Richardson said during his closing argument at Roof's sentencing. "He had come with a hateful heart and a Glock .45."
Richardson's argument is expected to be about two hours long. He reminded jurors about each one of the victims and the bloody crime scene that Roof, a 22-year-old white man, left behind in the church's lower level. Roof waited until the final prayer - when everyone's eyes were closed - to begin firing. He stood over some of the fallen, shooting them again as they lay on the floor, the prosecutor said.
The jury, which convicted Roof last month of 33 federal crimes, will decide whether Roof should be sentenced to execution or life in prison.
Roof is representing himself and has the opportunity to give a closing argument of his own, although he hasn't said if he will do so. So far, he has not presented any evidence or asked for forgiveness.
Jurors' decision must be unanimous. If they are unable to agree, a life sentence is automatically imposed.
Over four days, the government called nearly two dozen friends and relatives who shared cherished memories and opined about a future without a mother, father, sister or brother.
They shed tears and their voices shook, but none of them said whether Roof should face the death penalty.
Richardson reviewed their testimony and recalled Jennifer Pinckney's remarks about her husband, Clementa, as he sang goofy songs and watched cartoons with their young daughters in his spare time. He was the church pastor and a state senator.