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Dixon: Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied
12/21/2016 4:39:05 PM

Emanuel AME Church at 110 Calhoun Street downtown Charleston
By Barney Blakeney

Dylann Roof’s capital murder trial ended last week with a speed reflective of the brief span of time he took to commit the horrendous act of killing nine worshippers at Emanuel AME Church 18 months ago. Jurors in the trial were equally speedy in returning a guilty verdict on all 33 federal charges made against him. But the speed of the trial belies the years and perhaps decades that will pass before there’s an end to this episode of his life.

Judge Richard Gergel has set Jan. 3 as the start of the penalty phase of Roof’s trial. Jurors will have to decide whether Roof is sentenced to death or life in prison without parole.

Either sentence will mean the 22-year-old killer likely will spend at least the rest of the decade in prison. Even a death sentence means Roof likely will spend much of the next decade in prison as well.

“Justice delayed indeed is justice denied,” said community activist Rev. Thomas Dixon.

“I’m most happy about Roof’s conviction for the families of the victims, but when it comes to the trial, we have a flawed system. Justice should have been swift. Families must relive time and again that horror. It’s cruel and inhuman for what should have been an open and shut case.

“I think Roof is more intelligent than he’s credited for being. He said his intention was to start a race war. He’s gloated and smirked about killing the victims and now he gets to inflict more pain on the survivors. The conviction only leads us to a delayed sentencing. And then there’s going to be the state’s trial. After that there’s the appeals process. These families could be dragged through this for years without any resolution. There’s something wrong with this,” Dixon said.

A local attorney explained that a death sentence in Roof’s conviction must be unanimous. Following that potential sentence, an automatic appeals process will be implemented. The appeal potentially could go all the way up to the Supreme Court and easily could take eight-10 years before the process is exhausted. A sentence of life without parole means Roof, at 22 years old, could spend the next seven decades in prison among like-minded white supremacists.

“While he’s there he can’t be punished, ill-treated or legally be denied anything a human being is supposed to have. And it will be provided at taxpayers’ expense,” the attorney said. “We’re at a legal crossroads. But we must remember there were the days when we couldn’t convict somebody like him. Remember the Birmingham church bombing that killed those little girls?”

Four white supremacists were charged in the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. The four Ku Klux Klansmen accused in the crime that killed Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Carol Denise McNair and injured 22 others were not prosecuted until 1977. Only one of the klansmen was sentenced then. One klansman died in 1994 and the two remaining klansmen were sentenced to life in prison in 2001 and 2002.

Dixon called the Michael Slager trial, the case of a white North Charleston police officer charged in the shooting death of an unarmed black man that ended in a mistrial two weeks ago, madness. In the wake of the two trials, public officials and black community leaders are calling for blacks to remain calm and be docile negroes, Dixon said. But had the races of the perpetrators and victims been reversed both cases would have been “settled” long ago, he said.

“We have double standards in a dual system,” Dixon said. “We just have to insure that the pain of our past insures the harmony of our future.”

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