Long death row wait for Charleston mass murderer, years of appeals likely

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Associated Press

Dylann Roof's death sentence this week for killing nine black church members ends one chapter in his case, but it's far from over.

Source: 1 NEWS

Roof has indicated he will appeal his federal punishment and there are nine murder charges looming in state court.

Monuments and memorials to those slain at Emanuel AME in June 2015 are also planned.

Another trial?

State prosecutors charged Roof with nine counts of murder and prosecutor Scarlett Wilson declared her intention to seek the death penalty months before federal prosecutors.

But the feds jumped to the front of the line, even after Wilson asked a judge to let her go first.

The state trial was supposed to start January 17, but was indefinitely postponed because of the ongoing federal trial. Wilson hasn't discussed the case at length in recent months and didn't return messages this week from The Associated Press.

Federal appeals

There will likely be appeals for years to come, in part because Roof was sentenced to die.

Immediately after he was sentenced on Tuesday, Roof asked for new lawyers to file his paperwork and was denied. He indicated he plans to fight his conviction and has a month to file an appeal.

Roof's lawyers have consistently pointed out he was willing to plead guilty if the death penalty was taken off the table, which would have severely limited any appeals.

Family reaction

Most family members of victims said they were so wrapped up in the emotionally draining federal trial that they haven't had any chance to begin thinking about the possibility of another exhausting month or more in a courtroom.

"This has torn me up. I don't know if I can do it again," said Melvin Graham, brother of victim Cynthia Hurd.

Suspect of Charleston church shooting, Dylann Roof

But Graham said he will stand behind the state prosecutor if she moves forward because that is what his sister would want.

Daniel Simmons Jr ., whose father was killed at the church, said his family was satisfied with the federal trial, but he wants to talk to Wilson about her plans before deciding how he feels about a second trial.

"At this present, we would like to just enjoy where we are and be thankful that the Department of Justice really did an awesome job," he said.

Federal death row

Roof isn't heading to federal death row yet. Assistant US Attorney Jay Richardson says that Roof will likely stay in the Charleston County jail until his state charges are resolved.

Roof is the 63rd inmate sent to federal death row, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. But in the past 50 years, the federal government has executed just three people - Including Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh - and none since 2003.

Even if a South Carolina jury convicts Roof sentences him to death, there is no guarantee of a swift sentence. The state has executed 43 people since 1985, but none in the past five years.

And the prisons director in South Carolina has said the state's drugs needed to carry out lethal injections have expired and they have been unable to buy a new supply.


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