“I just finally decided I had to do it. Somebody had to do something. ‘Cause, you know, black people are killing white people every day.” This is the final explanation Dylann Roof offered in his police confession to killing nine worshippers at Mother Emanuel church on June 17, 2015.
Any words of mine directed to the families and friends of the nine murdered Mother Emanuel churchgoers will hover between pettiness and oversimplification. My words are petty, because no family member of mine has fallen victim to such a dark and diseased mind as Roof’s. I have never languished upon hearing news of a slaughtered relative or friend, a human being shot and killed, a person whose knees buckled beneath them as they fell to the floor of their own church.
My own words are at risk of becoming oversimplified. I was born and raised in the South, in a fortunate household. My parents, being raised in the Church themselves, took my siblings and I to services every Sunday. Not once did I worry about being shot down and silenced in my place of worship.
But Reverend Clementa Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Cynthia Hurd, Reverend Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Myra Thompson, Ethel Lance, Reverend Daniel Simmons, Reverend DePayne Middleton-Doctor and Susie Jackson have not been silenced. These people have left behind determined and resilient family and friends, two traits which will prove helpful in deciding Dylann Roof’s fate in court.
The Post and Courier attests that the 12-member panel, composed of three black and nine white jurors, “deliberated for a little less than three hours before unanimously deciding the 22-year-old self-avowed white supremacist should die for his crimes rather than spend his life in prison without the possibility of parole.”
For such an impending verdict to be reached, bringing rightful justice to a young man crippled with hate, Roof stayed virtually indifferent. In the words of the Post and Courier, he “remained an enigma,” during his federal trial which ended on January 11with a formal imposition and an invitation from District Judge Richard Gergel for families and friends of the victims to make remarks.
Roof stared straight ahead during his federal trial, occasionally shuffling papers and remaining silent. According to the Post and Courier, he refrained from cross-examining the government’s witnesses, and decided not to vindicate.
On Monday, Roof rested his case without calling one witness or offering any evidence in his defense. During his closing argument, the defendant denied the opportunity to argue for his life, saying “I’m not sure what good that will do anyway.”
Evil is not a diagnosed mental illness. What Roof did – plotting for months, visiting the same church several times before listening to a Bible study for an hour and then murdering nine innocent worshippers – was evil in the clearest form of the word.
While Roof insisted that he has no mental illness, everything he has said or written, from his racist manifestos to the journal he wrote in jail to his five-minute testimony in his federal trial, points to a mind that is not normal.
While being racist may not be a diagnosable disorder, Associate Psychology Professor Sarah Robertson attests that “there is a section of personality disorders which seem relevant to Mr. Roof. While I have not met/interviewed him, and would therefore not make a definitive diagnosis, it seems as though antisocial personality disorder fits him best. ASPD is characterized by failure to obey laws, impulsive behavior, blatant disregard for safety of self and others, and lack of remorse for action.”
Roof has not and will not apologize for his actions. Whatever happened to him in his early life, whatever hurt him or broke his heart or enraged him so much as to give him the twisted justification to murder nine innocent black worshippers, the most important aspect of the whole Dylann Roof story is that the victims’ families have forgiven him.
Roof is a coward. He hides behind racist lies and manifestos. The hatred in his heart spilled out on June 17, 2015 and has been soaked up in the federal trial verdict. As U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch stated in a Post and Courier article, “No verdict can bring back the nine we lost that day at Mother Emanuel…But we hope that the completion of the prosecution provides the people of Charleston – and the people of our nation – with a measure of closure.”