EDITORIAL: Death penalty is get-out-of-jail-free card
Roof deserves imprisonment to face consequences for his actions
The only thing more shocking than 22-year-old Dylann Roof’s chilling confession to the 2015 Charleston Church shooting is his steadfast belief in racist ideologies that lead to the shooting.
Roof murdered eight people (another person died later in a hospital, making it a total of nine people) at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina. He opened fire after sitting and praying with the members of the church for an estimated 30 minutes. Roof was even given a sheet of religious verses to follow along with during sermons. The survivors of the shooting recalled that while victims begged Roof not to shoot, he had replied saying, “Y’all are raping our white women, y’all are taking over the world.” After firing 77 shots, Roof walked out of the church and drove away.
Roof confessed to his crime during an FBI interrogation, that was filmed and played during his murder trial. He stated that, “I had to do it, somebody had to do something.” Roof credited his attack to his belief that white people were being killed by black people every day. He said, “What I did is so minuscule compared to what they do to white people every day.”
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
The defense is not pleading insanity and is not even attempting to convince the jury of Roof’s innocence. Instead, the defense has focused on convincing the jury to not go forth with the death penalty. The defense’s justifications for Roof’s crimes are baseless, as they are crediting Roof’s age and the fact that he told the FBI that he doesn’t have any friends as reasons to not end his life. However, despite Roof’s horrible crimes and his defense’s inadequate reasoning, the defense's hope to avoid the death penalty may be the best course of action.
Dylann Roof is not someone who has much regard for life and death. After murdering nine people, he told the FBI that he had expected police to be waiting outside for him after the shooting. He even stated that, had this been the case, he had already considered killing himself. Granting a man who does not care whether he lives or dies the penalty of death is not a punishment — it is a way out. Instead of doing this, the jury should consider the fact that Roof did not look at the survivors or the families of the victims while they spoke in trial. They should also consider Roof’s statement to the FBI, when he guaranteed that he would not be able to look at relatives of the victims if they were seated across from him. Instead of settling on a death penalty, which would spare Roof from truly learning the irrevocable damage he has caused, the jury should imprison him.
Roof is a man who believes in and supports white supremacy. Having written a “manifesto” and taken pictures with the Confederate flag along with a burning U.S. flag, it is clear how strongly Roof believes in racial segregation. And through his attack, it is clear to see how his beliefs were able to push him to commit these egregious actions. Killing him will not erase this mindset, it will only allow him to die as a racist person who believes that segregation is for the benefit of white people. And although the government’s call for the death penalty is positive, which represents their intolerance of murder and hate crime, there is more that can be done. By forcing Roof to do what he says he couldn’t and placing him before the families of those he killed and demanding him to realize that the racist notions he has are misplaced due to an ignorance of recognizing that black people are people just like him, perhaps the government can make a difference. Dylann Roof deserves the highest punishment for his crimes, and for him that would be to live, not to die.
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