CHARLESTON—Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said that her office will seek the death penalty against Dylann Roof, 21, who faces nine charges of murder, three charges of attempted murder and a weapons charge for the massacre at Mother Emanuel AME Church on June 17.
Wilson made the announcement during a press conference held Sept. 3, shortly after court documents notifying Roof and his attorneys of the decision were filed.
In a statement released by the Diocese of Charleston shortly after the press conference, Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone said the Catholic Church objects to capital punishment and that all life is sacred.
“The Catholic Church offers a unique perspective on crime and punishment, one grounded in mercy and healing, not punishment for its own sake. No matter how heinous the crime, if society can protect itself without ending a human life, it should do so,” he said. “Seeking the death penalty against Dylann Roof conflicts with the Church’s teaching that all human life is sacred. Instead of pursuing death, we should be extending compassion and forgiveness to Mr. Roof, just as some of the victims’ families did at his bond hearing in June.”
The bishop expressed his concern for the families.
“Although we oppose the death penalty, our Catholic faith affirms our solidarity with and support for victims of crime and their families. We commit ourselves to walk with them and assure them of the Church’s compassion and care, ministering to their spiritual, physical and emotional needs in the midst of deep pain and loss,” Bishop Guglielmone said.
He closed his statement asking people to pray for all involved.
“I ask everyone to pray for the victims of the Emanuel AME Church shooting and their families as they continue to heal from this tragedy,” he said. “Please also pray for Mr. Roof, that he will turn to our Lord and feel His loving and forgiving mercy.”
Roof also faces 33 federal hate crime and weapons charges.
The Rev. Clementa Pinckney, pastor of Emanuel AME Church, Tywanza Sanders, Rev. Sharonda Singleton, Rev. DePayne Middleton Doctor, Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., Rev. Cynthia Hurd, Myra Thompson, Ethel Lance, and Susie Jackson were killed in the shooting.
Circuit Judge J.C. Nicholson set July 11, 2016, as the trial date.
CNS photo/Brian Snyder, Reuters: Mourners cast shadows on the wall of a makeshift memorial at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. June 18. Nine people were murdered the day before during a Bible study session at the church.