Dylann Roof, the white gunman who killed nine black people in the 2015 Charleston church massacre, is one step closer to execution after a federal appeals court in Virginia ruled he’s eligible to receive the death penalty.
“His crimes qualify him for the harshest penalty that a just society can impose,” a three-judge panel for the Richmond-based Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals wrote, according to The State newspaper.
Roof was convicted in 2017 of slaughtering nine parishioners at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston after planning the attack for months in an effort to start a race war in the US.
“Dylann Roof murdered African Americans at their church, during their Bible-study and worship,” the panel of judges wrote in the decision, upholding death sentence imposed by a lower court judge.
“They had welcomed him. He slaughtered them. He did so with the express intent of terrorizing not just his immediate victims at the historically important Mother Emanuel Church, but as many similar people as would hear of the mass murder,” the judges wrote.
Roof appealed his death sentence in January, 2020, arguing he was mentally unfit when he represented himself during the penalty phase of his trial.
In the appeal, his attorneys wrote he was a 22-year-old ninth-grade dropout, “who believed his sentence didn’t matter because white nationalists would free him from prison after an impending race war.”
Roof was convicted after showing no remorse for the killings or apologizing to his victims. Prosecutors alleged he targeted the church because of its importance in the black community and painted Roof as a racist hellbent on igniting a race war.
Roof’s defense team can appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.