Unveiling for the first time in a jailhouse journal kept by Charleston church killer Dylann Roof, prosecutors on Wednesday told jurors who will decide whether Roof lives or dies that Roof’s own words reveal he has no remorse for the mass slayings.
“I have not shed a tear for the innocent people I killed,” the now 22-year-old avowed white supremecist wrote. “I do feel sorry for the innocent white children forced to live in this sick country.”
Prosecuting attorney Nathan Williams told the jury that a tip jailers received led them to the discovery of Roof’s journal. Williams showed the court the journal, which went on to say, “I did not regret what I did. I am not sorry. I do feel sorry for the innocent white people that are killed daily at the hands of the lower races.”
The same jurors found Roof guilty on Dec. 15 of all 33 counts in the June 2015 slayings of nine African-Americans during a Bible study at Charleston’s historic Emanuel AME Church.
Representing himself during the sentencing phase of his federal hate crimes death penalty trial, Roof told jurors Wednesday morning that there is nothing wrong with him psychologically.
During his 2-minute opening statement on Wednesday, Roof said he is representing himself to prevent his lawyers from offering mental illness evidence and he assumed the jury had heard about that.
Wednesday’s proceeding was the first day of the penalty phase of Roof’s trial. The jury will decide whether Roof should be executed or serve life in prison without possibility of parole.
Standing at a lecturn about 10 feet from the jury of nine whites and three African-Americans, Roof criticized his attorneys, saying they “forced” him to go through two mental competency hearings.
“Other than the fact that I am better at constantly embarrassing myself than anyone who has ever existed, there is nothing wrong with me, psychologically,” Roof said in a calm and steady voice.
As Roof spoke, five burly plainclothes law officers sat nearby, ready to spring into action should Roof become threatening.
David Bruck, Roof’s nationally-known defense lawyer who had repeatedly failed to introduce evidence concerning Roof’s alleged mental instability into the trial, sat at the defense table. Federal Judge Richard Gergel has designated Bruck and his legal team as “stand-by counsel,” meaning they can give Roof guidance, but they cannot make statements during trial.
Roof also told the jury he regretted that information concerning his mental competency hearings will be made public after the trial is over.
“In that case, my self representation accomplishes nothing,” Roof said. “So you can say ‘What’s the point?’ And the point is that I’m not going to lie to you.”
Reading from Roof’s journal, Williams added that Roof would sometimes think about how he could be watching a movie instead of being stuck in jail. But Williams said Roof wrote that he knew he had to do something. “And then I realize it was worth it."
“I would like to make it crystal clear, I am not sorry for what I did,” Roof wrote. “I feel pity that I had to give up my life because of the situation that should have never existed.”
Williams argued that Roof’s jail journal confession, and his continued lack of remorse, shows why he deserves the death penalty. He warned the jury that the testimony over the next few days could be even harder to hear than what was presented during the guilt phase.
Roof was ordered on Monday by Gergel not to approach the jury, the witness stand or the judge’s bench while representing himself.
He is restricted to a lectern, but Roof did not oppose that the prosecution have the ability to roam the courtroom. When he first began his opening statement, he was soft spoken. But Roof’s voice grew louder as he continued.
Before the jury entered the courtroom, guards unshackled Rood’s ankle manacles. He wore a dark grey-green sweater and grey pants.
If the first witness was any indication, this penalty phase of Roof’s trial could take weeks. Prosecutors plan to call up to 38 witnesses.
Jennifer Pinckney, the widow of slain Rev. Clementa Pinckney, was the first to testify. She was on the stand 90 minutes Wednesday morning and still was testifying at 12:30 p.m. when Gergel halted testimony so the jury could take a lunch break.
It marked the first time the late Pinckney’s widow testified since the trial began and one of the few times she has spoken publicly since her husband’s murder.
In response to Richardson’s questions, Pinckney spent the majority of her time discussing her relationship with her husband, and how much he meant to those around him.
She shared how much he loved her and their daughters, 12 and 7; how he would ask for a schedule at the beginning of each school year in hopes of attending every possible event with his kids. She said he was very attentive to her and their marriage.
“We enjoyed each other’s company,” Pinckney said. “He would even surprise my mom with gifts from time to time. He was that great catch. I know without a doubt that he loved me.”
Check back for updates to this developing story.