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Charleston Church Massacre: Dylann Roof Calls No Witness, Offers No Evidence in Death Penalty Hearings

by Tim Stelloh /
Dylann Roof booking photo Charleston County Sheriff's Office

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Federal prosecutors rested their case on Monday that convicted killer and self-proclaimed white supremacist Dylann Roof should be executed for gunning down nine worshipers at a South Carolina church in 2015.

So did Roof, who is representing himself during the penalty phase of his federal trial.

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Over four days of testimony, Roof, 22, didn’t make much of an argument that he should be spared. He didn’t challenge any of the government’s witnesses — some 38 victims of the attack on Emanuel AME Church were expected to testify — nor did he call any of his own witnesses.

Roof did, however, seek to limit how many victims government prosecutors could present. (In a motion, he described their testimony as “excessive.”) And in his opening statement last Wednesday — his first public statement since the June 17 attack — he explained the highly unusual choice to act as his own lawyer.

“I chose to represent myself to prevent my lawyers from presenting [my] mental health evaluation," Roof said, adding: “There is nothing wrong with me psychologically.”

Meanwhile, the government called witness after witness to offer a window into the emotionally raw aftermath of the June 17 attack.

 Denise Quarles, daughter of Myra Thompson, at the trial on Thursday. Art Lien

Denise Quarles, for instance, described in blunt terms how it felt to hear that her mother, Myra Thompson, had been killed at a place that her family had considered a sanctuary.

"For that to happen where I call home — it pisses me off," she said.

On Monday, Roof filed a motion that seeks to prevent government lawyers from using "unfair and constitutional" words and references in its closing argument on Tuesday. Among them are "evil," "hate" and a reference to Hitler from his personal writings.

Roof is also expected to deliver a closing argument, though it is unclear what he will say.

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