Dylann Roof Says He Won't Call Witnesses During Sentencing in Federal Death Penalty Case

Roof was convicted of fatally shooting nine black parishioners at a church.

ByABC News
December 28, 2016, 11:40 AM

— -- Dylann Roof, the 22-year-old convicted of killing nine black parishioners at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, told a judge today he has "no plans whatsoever to call witnesses" during the sentencing phase of his federal trial, in which he could face the death penalty.

Roof, who appeared in a striped prison uniform, with his hands and feet shackled, confirmed today he still intends to represent himself, although U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel has said he does not support Roof's decision.

Roof told Gergel he will make an opening statement.

The government plans to call more than 30 witnesses — mostly survivors and victims' family members — to testify in the sentencing phase. Survivors Polly Sheppard and Felicia Sanders, who testified during the guilt phase, are expected to testify again.

Opening statements are set to begin Jan. 3.

The same jury that found him guilty will return to decide if he'll be sentenced to death.

Roof, who is white, was convicted earlier this month of shooting and killing the parishioners at the predominantly black Emanuel AME Church on June 17, 2015. The 33 federal counts against Roof included hate crimes resulting in death and obstruction of exercise of religion resulting in death.

Roof entered the church armed and "with the intent of killing African-Americans engaged in the exercise of their religious beliefs," according to the federal indictment against him. The parishioners welcomed Roof into their Bible study group, according to the indictment, after which Roof drew his pistol and opened fire.

In the defense's opening statements during the guilt phase of the trial, attorney David Bruck told the court, "He did it ... You're probably wondering, so what we are doing here? Why does there need to be a trial? ... The practical reason is that the government has asked for the death penalty after conviction, and because of that, we have a procedure to go through.

"Our society does not order the death penalty if there are reasons to choose life," Bruck added. "You're going to want to understand who this person was and why on earth he would want to cause so much grief."

Roof also faces a state trial, set for early next year, in which he may also face the death penalty.