Survivors of the Charleston church shooting and relatives of the victims were testifying on Thursday as prosecutors aimed to portray the emotional devastation Dylann Roof inflicted on the entire community.
This morning, Denise Quarles tearfully described how her mother, Myra Thompson, held her to high standards and influenced her life.
“I still hear her in my ear giving me directions,” Quarles said. “She taught me what being a woman is, how to be a mom, how to be a grandparent, how to be a friend.”
Thompson was among the nine people who died when Roof, a white supremacist, opened fire on a bible study group at Charleston’s historically black Emanuel AME Church.
“For her to die welcoming a stranger into the church where she grew up, where I got baptized… for that to happen where I call home, it pisses me off,” Quarles said. “But I won’t let what happened in that church stop me from being there.”
Acting as his own attorney, Roof has declined to cross-examine witnesses and plans to introduce no witnesses or evidence of his own. During his opening statement Wednesday, the defendant made no mention of the 2015 church shooting or his motives.
However, Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathan Williams read from a handwritten note Roof penned from his jail cell several weeks after his arrest.
In the note, Roof writes, “I would like to make it crystal clear. I do not regret what I did. I am not sorry. I have not shed a tear for the innocent people I killed.”
The same 12 jurors who convicted Roof last month must now decide whether he should face execution for his crimes, or spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Although prosecutors argue Roof’s racist motives and lack of remorse deserve the harshest penalty, Philip Holloway, an Atlanta-based criminal defense attorney, said jurors have considerable leeway in determining which punishment is the most appropriate.
“Sometimes people have residual doubt in the back of their minds about whether or not death is the right sentence,” Holloway told FoxNews.com. “Many would argue that life in prison, maybe a supermax, is a worse punishment than death for Dylann Roof.”
Although Roof is representing himself during the sentencing phase of his trial, his lawyers remain seated next to him during the proceedings to offer advice. During a mid-morning break, defense attorney David Bruck was seen leaning over to Roof to tell him something. Roof smiled and shook his head to the left and right in an apparent reply: no.
Fox News’ Chip Bell and Multimedia Reporter Terace Garnier contributed to this report.
Jonathan Serrie joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in April 1999 and currently serves as a correspondent based in the Atlanta bureau.