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Prosecutor seeks death penalty for Charleston shooter

04 september 2015, 13:58

South Carolina prosecutors said Thursday they intend to seek the death penalty for Dylann Roof, the white alleged supremacist charged with killing nine black churchgoers in June, AFP reports.

"This was the ultimate crime and justice from our state calls for the ultimate punishment," said Scarlett Wilson, the prosecutor for Charleston County, where the shooting took place.

"Making such a weighty decision is an awesome responsibility," Wilson told a press conference.

Roof, 21, allegedly joined an evening bible study class at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, then shot participants with a .45-caliber Glock handgun. Three people survived the shooting.

Roof was arrested in North Carolina a day after the shooting. A website attributed to him was later found to contain racist views towards African Americans, as well as photographs of Roof brandishing guns and the Confederate battle flag.

He has been indicted for the killings in both state and federal court.

His state trial, in which he will face the death penalty, is set to begin in July next year.

"I have had many, many meetings with survivors and the victims' families," Wilson said.

"We all agree that forgiveness is an important part of the healing process but know that forgiveness doesn't necessarily mean foregoing consequences, even severe consequences," she said.

"While none of us has the heart for vengeance, we all have the resolve to seek and to find justice in this case."

She said that some victims and relatives of victims did not believe in the death penalty "under any circumstances."

"Some believe the death penalty is just too easy. It's not a religious consideration or a philosophical consideration. It's a practical consideration."

But others believe that it is "entirely appropriate," Wilson said.

On July 31, Roof entered pleas of not guilty to federal hate crime charges.

It is not yet clear when the federal trial will begin or what sentence federal prosecutors will seek.

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