Prosecutors showed jurors video from a police interrogation in which Dylann Roof calmly admits to opening fire inside an historically black church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina.
“I had to do it,” the self-avowed white supremacist explains calmly in the video, made shortly after his arrest in Shelby, North Carolina. “Somebody had to do something because black people are killing white people every day… They rape white women every day.”
In the video, Roof explains to police that he targeted Emanuel AME Church because of its historical significance to Charleston’s African-American community.
Roof’s lawyers have publicly stated they expect the jury will find Roof guilty of the June 17, 2015 shooting that left nine people dead. Their focus is on sparing their client from execution.
But their efforts are complicated by Roof’s desire to represent himself once the capital murder trial moves into its sentencing phase. Defense attorney David Bruck has made several attempts to humanize his client before the jury, only to be blocked by objections by prosecutors who argue such testimony has no relevance to the “guilt phase” of the trial.
This morning, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel denied a defense motion that would have allowed jurors to hear testimony about Roof’s state of mind and personal life around the time of the attack.
Throughout the proceedings, the defendant has been sitting quietly — almost motionless. FBI Special Agent Michael Stansbury testified that Roof displayed a similar demeanor during the police interrogation shortly after the shooting.
“He showed no real emotion,” Stansbury said.
Yesterday, prosecutors showed the jury images of Emanuel AME Church before and after the shooting. Security camera videos show parishioners entering the church for, what they expected to be, a routine Bible study. Later photos show ammunition cartridges scattered near Bibles, bullet fragments lodged in chairs and tables and victims’ bodies lying on the floor.
The trial has been emotionally charged for relatives of the victims, as well as Roof’s family. According to an earlier motion filed by attorney Bruck, the defendant’s mother Amelia “Amy” Roof suffered a heart attack when she collapsed in court shortly after Wednesday’s opening statements.
Authorities have released no updates on her condition.