The Justice Department has said it will seek the death penalty for Dylann Storm Roof, the man accused of massacring nine African-American worshipers in Charleston, South Carolina, last year. Roof is accused of opening fire during Bible study at Emanuel AME Church in an attack motivated by racism.

In a statement, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said, “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,”  “The nature of the alleged crime and the resulting harm compelled this decision.” State prosecutors have already said they will seek the death penalty, and Roof has been indicted on federal hate crimes charges.

Roof was arrested less than a day after the shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, a historic and predominantly black congregation.  He is accused of killing nine people during a racially motivated assault last June at the Charleston, S.C., church.  He will face two death penalty trials after the Justice Department said Tuesday that it would seek his execution.

In a separate seven-page filing in Federal District Court in Charleston, prosecutors cited nine aggravating factors, including that Mr. 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 prosecutors also wrote that Mr. Roof had “demonstrated a lack of remorse” and that he had “targeted men and women participating in a Bible study group at the church in order to magnify the societal impact” of the attack.

Last year, a federal grand jury returned a 33-count indictment against Mr. Roof, who was accused of hate crimes, weapons charges and obstructing the practice of religion.  He is also facing murder charges in a state court, and the local prosecutor, Scarlett A. Wilson, said last September that she would seek the death penalty.

Whether Roof, 22 year old shooter should be executed has been a matter of some debate in South Carolina, where some family members of the victims publicly forgave the suspected gunman just two days after the shooting.  Governor Nikki R. Haley has called for Mr. Roof to be put to death while others said they wanted to avoid the pain of a trial and the potential for protracted appeals.

A defense lawyer for Dylann Roof said his client was willing to enter a guilty plea in exchange for a sentence of life in prison. A date for Mr. Roof’s federal trial has not been set. His state court trial is expected to begin in January.

 

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