RELIGION

The Latest: Prosecutor calls Roof ignorant coward

The Latest on the federal death penalty trial of Dylann Roof, accused of killing nine black people during a South Carolina church Bible study (all times local):

10:05 a.m.

Federal prosecutors have started their closing argument in Dylann Roof's death penalty trial by saying the 22-year-old white man targeted nine black church members when they were most vulnerable.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathan Williams told jurors Thursday that Roof waited until the Bible study group had its eyes closed for prayer before Roof opened fire.

Williams said he was going to concentrate less on the evidence and more on Roof's hatred, cowardice and immense racial ignorance.

Williams says Roof believed black people were animals and less than human when he violated the sanctuary of the church and killed nine people on June 17, 2015, at Emanuel African Methodist Church.

Roof did not react to Williams' arguments.

Roof's attorneys will have a chance to make a closing argument.

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3 a.m.

Jurors will likely soon be asked to decide if the man accused in the shooting deaths of nine black worshippers at a South Carolina church is guilty of federal hate crimes.

Closing arguments are expected when the jury arrives Thursday morning at Dylann Roof's death penalty trial. The judge will hand jurors the case a short time later.

Jurors will decide if Roof is guilty or not guilty of 33 separate charges, including hate crimes and obstruction of religion charges for each of the nine people killed and three who survived the June 2015 massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston.

If they find Roof guilty, the same jurors will return Jan. 3 for the next phase of the trial to determine if he's sentenced to death or life in prison.