A state judge in South Carolina has handed down nine consecutive life sentences to Dylann Roof, who shot and killed nine black parishioners at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston on June 17, 2015. Roof, now 23, pleaded guilty to nine counts of murder, three counts of attempted murder, and a weapons charge for the massacre.
In January, Roof was convicted in federal court on hate crime charges and sentenced to death.
"The state plea agreement will avoid a second grueling trial for survivors and family members of the victims," NPR's Debbie Elliott reported. "South Carolina prosecutor Scarlett Wilson has characterized the agreement as an insurance policy that Roof will spend the rest of his life in prison should his federal death sentence not stand."
During the 80-minute hearing, friends and family members of the victims spoke about the pain they’ve experienced in the aftermath of their loved ones’ murders. Roof declined to address the court, but his grandfather apologized on his behalf and stated that he and his wife pray every day for the victims’ families. It marked the first time a relative has spoken on Roof’s behalf in court, according to The New York Times.
“His plan was to kill specifically innocent African Americans, and his hope was to start a race war,” state prosecutor Scarlett Wilson said. Roof said this was an accurate description of the crimes.
Roof entered an evening Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on June 17, 2015 and stayed for nearly an hour before opening fire. Survivors told police that the self-proclaimed white supremacist shouted racial epithets during the massacre.
Roof will now be transferred a facility in Terre Haute, Indiana, where he’ll become the 63rd person on federal death row.