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article imageU.S. to seek death penalty for South Carolina church shooter

By Nathan Salant     May 25, 2016 in Crime
Washington - U.S. officials said Tuesday that they would seek the death penalty in the trial of a young white man who killed nine black parishioners at a South Carolina church last year.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch acknowledged Tuesday that prosecutors had decided to pursue the ultimate punishment after considering all aspects of the alleged crime, including racist remarks posted online.
“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 Tuesday, according to the Associated Press.
“The nature of the alleged crime and the resulting harm compelled this decision,” she said.
Roof, now 22, is accused of killing nine parishioners attending a bible study class last June 17 at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, one of the south's most most-historic churches.
Prosecutors say Roof, who reportedly shouted racial insults while he opened fire inside the building, envisioned starting a race war between black and white people when he opened fire at the church, a celebrated meeting place in the 1800s when most blacks in the south were held as slaves and denied basic rights guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution.
Roof made no secret of his racism in his online life, posting pictures of himself posing with confederate flags and firearms, the AP said.
South Carolina state prosecutors also have decided to prosecute Roof and seek the death penalty, the AP said.
Trial on state murder and hate crime charges is expected to begin early next and will come before the federal case begins.
Attorneys representing Roof and the people of South Carolina is scheduled next month., the AP said.
Roof's attorneys have reportedly offered a guilty plea in exchange for removal of a possible death sentence.
Defense attorney David Bruck declined to comment Tuesday.
A friend of Roof, Joey Meek, pleaded guilty last month to a charge of lying to federal authorities and agreed to help prosecutors, the AP said.
Malcolm Graham, brother of victim Cynthia Hurd, told the AP that prosecutors had spoken iwith relatives of other victims to advise them of their decision to seek the death penalty, a move he called "appropriate."
"What he did that night was kill innocent individuals at a Bible study," Graham said.
"Not only was it an attack on those who were there, it was an attack on a race of people," he said.
The church shootings shocked South Carolina and led not to race conflict but to a decision to remove the Confederate flag from the grounds of the South Carolina statehouse, where it had flown since the Civil War.
More about Dylann, Roof, Mass murder, Killings, Capital punishment
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