The brother of one of convicted Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof's nine victims calls the 22-year-old's death sentence a "hollow victory."
Melvin Graham, brother of victim Cynthia Hurd, said after Roof's sentence was read this afternoon, "Today we had justice for my sister." But he called Roof's sentence a "very hollow victory because my sister's still gone."
"I wish that this verdict could have brought her back," he added.
Graham said he supported the death penalty in this case, calling Roof's crimes "executions." He added that Roof took nine lives in a brutal fashion with no remorse.
"It's a hard thing to know that someone's going to lose their life," Graham said of Roof. "But when you look at the totality of what happened, it's hard to say that this person deserves to live."
Roof, 22, was sentenced to death this afternoon in a unanimous decision by the jury for killing nine black churchgoers during a Bible study in Charleston, South Carolina, in June 2015. This verdict comes at the end of the federal death penalty case in which he was convicted of hate crimes resulting in death, among other charges. This is the first time a death penalty verdict was rendered in a federal hate crimes case, the Justice Department said today.
Roof also faces a state trial in which he may again face the death penalty. The state trial was delayed indefinitely last week.
The jury began deliberating Roof's fate earlier today, after Roof told the jury in a closing statement, "I still feel like I had to do it."
Asked whether he has forgiven Roof, Graham replied, "I'm a work in progress."
"I think that in time that'll come," he said. "I can't live in hate. But I think in time it'll come, the peace will come. But right now, no."
Graham added that Roof's fate is "in God's hands now."
As Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson laid out the government's argument for the death penalty today, he called Roof's actions "calculated." "He spent years acquiring this deep hatred, this deep hatred we would all like to believe could not exist in someone. But it does. You've seen it," Richardson said.
Roof's family said in a statement today, "We will always love Dylann. We will struggle as long as we live to understand why he committed this horrible attack, which caused so much pain to so many good people. We wish to express the grief we feel for the victims of his crimes, and our sympathy to the many families he has hurt. We continue to pray for the Emanuel AME families and the Charleston community."
Roof's defense said in a statement that the "sentencing decision means that this case will not be over for a very long time. We are sorry that, despite our best efforts, the legal proceedings have shed so little light on the reasons for this tragedy."
Charleston Victim's Brother Calls Dylann Roof's Sentence a 'Hollow Victory'