Dylann Roof was sentenced to nine consecutive life sentences Monday afternoon for shooting nine people to death in a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina nearly two years ago.
Roof pleaded guilty to all state charges, which included nine murder charges, three attempted murder charges, and one weapons charge, as part of a plea deal for which he was also handed three consecutive 30-year sentences.
But despite the state court sentencing, Roof could still be executed — a jury sentenced Roof to death on federal hate crime charges in January.
Roof has been in prison since his June 2015 massacre at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, where he walked into the church’s weekly Bible study and stayed for almost an hour before opening fire on worshippers. During the federal trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson said Dylan reloaded seven times during the shooting, pulling the trigger more than 75 times.
In return for pleading guilty in state court, Roof avoided sitting through another death penalty trial. Scarlett A. Wilson, a South Carolina prosecutor, had previously called the guilty plea an “insurance policy to the federal conviction and sentence” in an email to victims’ families, since it would get Roof into federal custody faster and keep Roof imprisoned should an appeal threaten his death sentence.
“This is the surest way to see that Dylann Roof is executed,” Wilson told CNN. “We hope that today truly will close a chapter for these victims.”
The sentencing hearing also allowed the survivors and victims’ families, who were reportedly glad to avoid enduring another difficult trial, a final opportunity to directly address Roof. Nadine Collier, whose mother Ethel Lance was among Roof’s victims, again told Roof she had forgiven him.
“I am hoping and praying that this feeling of love and forgiveness will continue in this city and state,” said Melvin Graham, brother of victim Cynthia Hurd.
Roof will likely now be transferred to federal death row in an Indiana facility.