Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the Department of Justice will seek the death penalty for Dylann Roof, who stands accused of massacring nine people in a South Carolina church.
On June 17, 2015, Roof allegedly entered the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, a historic African-American house of worship, a gunned down nine attendees after completing a Bible study.
The DOJ has determined the severity and hate-filled motivations of his crime merits death, The New York Times reports.
“Following the department’s rigorous review process to thoroughly consider all relevant factual and legal issues, I have determined that the Justice Department will seek the death penalty,” Lynch said in an official statement.
“The nature of the alleged crime and the resulting harm compelled this decision,” Lynch added.
Coupled with Lynch’s statement was a filing made by the Federal District Court in Charleston, which concluded Roof had “expressed hatred and contempt towards African-Americans, as well as other groups, and his animosity towards African-Americans played a role in the murders charged in the indictment.”
The report also noted that Roof had not shown remorse for his alleged crimes and that his actions were akin to terrorism, targeting “men and women participating in a Bible study group at the church in order to magnify the social impact.”
In September 2015, South Carolina prosecutor Scarlett Wilson announced the state would seek the death penalty for Roof, The Associated Press reports.
“This was the ultimate crime, and justice from our state calls for the ultimate punishment,” Wilson said in an official statement.
Several family members of the victims of the attack publicly forgave Roof during his first court appearance.
Charleston attorney Andy Savage observed that many of the families impacted by Roof’s alleged crime disapproved of the death penalty based on their religious principles.
“They’re not Sunday Christians,” Savage said. “They’re 24/7 Christians. They believe in the sanctity of life. They believe in forgiveness ... So for them, to not be the proponent of the death penalty is no surprise.”
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has spoken out against the DOJ’s decision to seek the death penalty for Roof.
“Sen. Sanders opposed the death penalty,” spokesman Michael Briggs wrote to The Huffington Post. “He believes those who are convicted of the most horrible crimes should be imprisoned for the rest of their lives without the possibility of parole.”