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Roof Sentencing Should Be Harsh, Says Churchgoers
1/4/2017 4:04:55 PM

Emanuel AME church
By Barney Blakeney

The sentencing phase of the Dylann Roof murder trial begins this week. Roof was found guilty in November of all 33 federal charges against him and faces either a life sentence or the death penalty. Some local residents were asked their thoughts about those possible sentences.

I talked with four members of the Emanuel AME Church family. Their comments span the array of emotions that may be typical in the local community. While each of the people I spoke with had different ideas of how Roof should be punished, each felt that his sentence should indeed be a punishment.

Seventy-year-old Paul hopes Roof is sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole. He envisions Roof spending the rest of his life in solitary confinement, alone with only his thoughts about the nine murders he committed. Paul thinks a life sentence means Roof would be alone all the time with no one to talk to or with whom to interact. Paul thinks that loneliness and reflection would induce the suffering Roof deserves. It would give Roof the time to think about what he did, Paul said.

Sonia, 60, said whatever sentence Roof receives should be harsh. “They should cut him from limb to limb and put his body on a plate for his family to see, just like his victims’ families had to see their loved ones’ brutalized bodies. Whether he gets life or death, I want to see him suffer,” she said.

But like Paul, Sonia also wants Roof’s sentence to be a lingering one. She acknowledges that a death sentence too quickly would end Roof’s suffering. “The courts will decide his fate, but I hope he receives the ultimate punishment. But then, death is too easy.”

Sonia says she can’t bring herself to the forgiveness so many in the Charleston community profess. “I can’t speak for the victims’ families, but I don’t want the world to think that everybody here has forgiven Dylann Roof. I want that demon to suffer a horrible death the same as he made those nine good people suffer horrible deaths so that it deters other demons like him. I don’t forgive him and I won’t. Not until I see him suffer,” she said.

Robert, 50, said as a Christian he doesn’t believe in the death penalty, but he wants Roof to receive the most punishing sentence possible. Robert said though the entire world community acknowledges the horror of Roof’s actions, the ugly spectre of racism continues to influence the case. As legal minds involved in Roof’s trial look for ways to inject Roof’s mental state as a factor in the sentencing, Robert noted that the mental state of black offenders rarely is considered in sentencing.

Eleanor had a unique perspective on Roof‘s sentencing. As a Christian she also can’t condone Roof being put to death. But she thinks his hatred for blacks should be used to punish him.

“He should be sentenced to life with the stipulation that he daily has to clean the graves of his victims. Everyone he comes in contact with for the rest of his life should be black,” she said.

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