Dylann Roof puts up no defense against death penalty

(AP Photo/Ben Earp)
(AP Photo/Ben Earp)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — After four days of testimony, prosecutors rested their death penalty case Monday against convicted Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof, calling more than two dozen people during the trial’s penalty phase.

Most of the testimony consisted of heartwarming stories about each of the nine people Roof killed in the 2015 attack at Emanuel AME Church. Witnesses also talked about the heartrending tales of loss in the wake of the deaths.

Roof, 22, was convicted last month on 33 federal charges, including hate crimes and obstruction of religion. The same jury that found him guilty has been back in court this month, tasked with deciding if he gets the death penalty or life in prison.

As he promised earlier in the trial, Roof — who is representing himself — rested his case without calling witnesses or presenting any evidence on his own behalf.

Jennifer Pinckney was the government’s first witness, testifying about the life of her husband, church pastor and state Sen. Clementa Pinckney. She also spoke about the harrowing minutes she spent huddled underneath a desk with her youngest daughter as shots rang out in the next room, unsure if the shooter was coming her way.

Survivor Felicia Sanders, who also gave powerful testimony during the guilt phase of Roof’s trial, wrapped up prosecutors’ case at sentencing, talking about her creative, 26-year-old son, the youngest victim, and his commitment to his faith and Emanuel.

“That night they were getting basic instruction before leaving Earth,” Sanders said. “I did not know that was going to be the life of them.”

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel says he expects jurors to begin deliberating as early as Tuesday. Later Monday afternoon, Roof, prosecutors and the judge were expected to hash out the jury charge, a set of instructions on the law jurors will receive before they start their discussions.

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