A jury sentenced Dylann Roof to death Tuesday in the massacre of nine people inside a predominantly African-American church in South Carolina in June 2015.
The jury of nine whites and three African Americans spent less than three hours deciding the sentence for the 22-year-old avowed racist, unanimously determining that Roof, who confessed to the killings, should die for his crimes rather than spend his life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Roof betrayed no emotion when the verdict was read, according to the Post and Courier newspaper in Charleston.
Earlier Tuesday, Roof, who represented himself during the sentencing phase of the trial, said: “I still feel like I had to do it.”
He had told investigators he shot the six women and three men, all African Americans, inside Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in a bid to spark a race war.
Jay Richardson, the assistant US attorney who prosecuted the case, told the jury earlier Tuesday that Roof’s cold, calculated plan was “precisely why this case justifies the death penalty,” the Post and Courier said.
It will be up to the judge to formally impose the sentence Wednesday at a formal hearing, but he is bound by law to follow the jury’s decision.
After the verdict was announced, Roof asked the judge if he would appoint new lawyers to help him file a request for a new trial, the Post and Courier in Charleston reported.
The judge said he would be “strongly disinclined” to do so, but would listen to any motions Roof makes on Wednesday.
Roof pushed his legal team aside when he requested permission to represent himself during the penalty phase.
In a brief statement he said prosecutors didn’t understand him or the meaning of hate in their quest to put him to death.
Roof said he had been told that he had the right to ask the jury for a life sentence “but I’m not sure what good that will do anyway.”
He did not explain his actions, but said “anyone who hates anything in their mind has a good reason for it.”
The same jury last month found Roof guilty of 33 offences of violating hate crime, religious freedom and weapons laws related to the mass shooting.
After the decision, Roof’s family released a statement saying they would struggle as long they lived to understand why he had committed the attack. The statement also expressed grief for the victims and sympathy to the families Roof hurt.