The horrific crimes of Dylann Roof "qualify him for the harshest penalty that a just society can impose," a federal appeals court said Wednesday, firmly rejecting an appeal from the first person sentenced to death for a federal hate crime. Lawyers for Roof, a white supremacist who massacred nine Black people in a Charleston, SC, church in 2015, had argued that he shouldn't have been found competent to stand trial or allowed to represent himself during the penalty phase. The lawyers said Roof believed fellow white nationalists would rescue him from prison, but only if he kept his "mental impairments," including depression and autism, out of the public record. A three-judge panel on the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the death sentence and called the 27-year-old's argument "strained," NBC News reports.
The judges said no "cold record or careful parsing of statutes and precedents" could capture the "full horror" of his actions. "Dylann Roof murdered African Americans at their church, during their Bible-study and worship. They had welcomed him. He slaughtered them," the judges wrote, per Law & Crime. They noted that Roof, then 21, "wanted the widest possible publicity for his atrocities, and, to that end, he purposefully left one person alive in the church 'to tell the story.'" They praised the trial judge for handling the "difficult case with skill and compassion for all concerned, including Roof himself."
Roof, who also received nine consecutive life sentences in state court, is on death row at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., but he's unlikely to be executed in the near future, the AP reports. Attorney General Merrick Garland ordered a temporary moratorium on federal executions last month while a review of policies and procedures is carried out. (Read more Dylann Roof stories.)