A three-judge panel has dismissed arguments that Dylann Roof should have been ruled incompetent before standing trial in the shootings at Mother Emanuel AME Church in 2015. Instead, the federal appeals court argued that the legal record cannot even capture the “full horror” of the mass shooting. As a result, Roof will likely spend the rest of his life in prison as he awaits an execution date.
“Dylann Roof murdered African Americans at their church, during their Bible study and worship. They had welcomed him. He slaughtered them. He did so with the express intent of terrorizing not just his immediate victims at the historically important Mother Emanuel Church, but as many similar people as would hear of the mass murder," the three-judge panel wrote in their findings.
"No cold record or careful parsing of statutes and precedents can capture the full horror of what Roof did. His crimes qualify him for the harshest penalty that a just society can impose."
Roof entered Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church during a routine bible study on June 17, 2015. After entering the church, Roof opened fire with a Glock 41 and a handgun. In the end, he killed nine people and was taken into custody shortly thereafter. Two years after the shooting, Roof was convicted and became the first person in the U.S. sentenced to death for a federal hate crime.
Leading up to his election, President Joe Biden said he would work towards ending federal executions. However, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has somewhat walked back Biden's comments in recent months.
"President Biden has made clear, as he did on the campaign trail, that he has grave concerns about whether capital punishment, as currently implemented, is consistent with the values that are fundamental to our sense of justice and fairness," Psaki said during a press briefing when asked about a separate death penalty case involving Dzhokhar Anzorovich Tsarnaev, commonly known as the "Boston Marathon Bomber."
"He’s also expressed his horror at the events of that day and his actions — Tsarnaev’s actions, I should say. As Vice President, he spoke to the people of Boston on the one-year anniversary of the horrible crime. As he said then, 'We are Boston…We are America…We own the finish line.' Of course, any process for the death penalty policy moving forward, I don’t have any updates on that. As it relates to this specific case, I would refer you to the Department of Justice."
Biden nor Psaki have commented on Roof's case in recent months.