Judge sends jurors home after prosecutors, defense rest cases in Roof trial
CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The judge in the federal sentencing phase of the man convicted in the Charleston church shootings has sent jurors home for the day after both prosecutors and the defense rested their cases.
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Dylann Roof, 22, faces either life in prison without parole or the death penalty after being convicted in December on 33 federal hate crime and weapons charges in the June 17, 2015, shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church.
Prosecutors rested their case shortly before 11:30 a.m. Monday. At Roof's request, the court took a 30-minute recess. When court reconvened, Roof repeated to the judge his intention to call no witnesses and present no evidence, adding he did not wish to testify.
U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel called the jury back into the courtroom and told them to get a good night's sleep before returning Tuesday morning to begin deliberating Roof's fate.
A charge conference was then held where the prosecution outlined some concerns including the judge telling the jury they do not have to be unanimous on a decision.
In a federal death penalty case, a jury doesn't have to come up with a unanimous decision.
The jury has three options: unanimous for death, unanimous for life, or a split decision which will result in life in prison without parole.
The prosecution does not want the judge to instruct the jury before deliberations about the consequences that could happen without a unanimous decision.
The defense meanwhile wants the jury to know the options because they won't know what to be on the lookout for.
Judge Gergel has said he will take all of these objections under advisement.
Roof also filed two motions on Monday regarding the government's upcoming closing argument, and aggravating factors.
According to the closing argument motion, Roof filed it to prevent "unfair and unconstitutional" comments by the government that may unfairly prejudice the jury.
Roof included a list of terms and phrases he objects to in the government's closing statement.
Those include references to evil, "pit of hell," inflammatory terms relating to Roof's writings, "particularly good" victims, what God told the victims or witnesses, and any argument suggesting that the jury should reject a life sentence because it is the minimum sentence available.
Roof also requested that the court permit him to object when the government makes an "improper argument."
Roof's second motion was to challenge "aggravating factors" being submitted to the jury.
The motion specifically cites the victims being called "vulnerable victims" because they were not "especially vulnerable because of their age, as defined by the law." Roof also says the term "inciting violence" is overbroad and inaccurate.
"There is no evidence that I attempted to incite violence by others in preparation, or subsequent to the acts of violence," Roof stated in the motion.
Finally, Roof stated that the "lack of remorse aggravating factor" is too vague, because it does not include a time period.
"Also , lack of remorse is supposed to be conduct that demonstrates you don't regret the murders as opposed to any viewpoints," the motion stated.
Three relatives of Tywanza Sanders testified on Monday.
The 26-year-old Sanders was the youngest victim of the shooting.
Tyrone Sanders, Tywanza's father, said he missed taking fishing trips and homecoming visits with his son.
Felicia Sanders, who survived the attack during a Bible study session, said her son was a creative young man who was dedicated to Emanuel.
Shirrene Goss, Sanders' big sister, described him as a jack-of-all-trades who had a variety of interests including music and modeling. She said he was a fearless, headstrong social butterfly.
Prosecutors called 25 witnesses over four days, many of whom spoke of the loss they felt after the deaths of their loved ones.
Law officers also reviewed Roof's jailhouse journal in which he said he felt no regret for his crimes.
Roof is representing himself for the sentencing phase of the trial and did not cross-examine any witnesses.
Roof faces either life in prison without the possibility of parole or the death penalty.
Federal prosecutors have been pushing for the death penalty since day one.
Copyright 2017 WCSC. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.