By Harriet McLeod
| CHARLESTON, S.C.
CHARLESTON, S.C. The widow of the pastor who was among the nine people killed by white supremacist Dylann Roof at a historic black church in South Carolina told a federal jury on Wednesday she heard the gunman say during the hate-fuelled rampage that he was not crazy.Jennifer Pinckney said she hid with her 6-year-old daughter under a desk as Roof opened fire in an adjoining room at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, where her husband, the Reverend Clementa Pinckney, and parishioners had gathered for a Bible study meeting on June 17, 2015. "I heard Mr. Roof say, 'I'm not crazy. I have to do this,'" said Pinckney, the first witness to testify for prosecutors who are seeking the death penalty for a crime that shocked the United States.The sentencing phase of Roof's federal trial opened earlier in the day with the defendant telling jurors that he was representing himself because he did not want them to hear any mental health evidence - but insisting he is not mentally ill.The same jury last month found Roof guilty of 33 federal counts of hate crimes resulting in death, obstruction of religion and firearms charges.
"There's nothing wrong with me psychologically," said Roof, making no mention of the crime or the racist ideology prosecutors have said spurred the massacre.Roof also did not say during his short opening statement whether he wants to live, nor did he ask any questions of Pinckney when she took the witness stand.He described for jurors in a calm voice how he had been forced to undergo two mental health evaluations after his attorneys questioned his competency.
U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel ruled on Monday that Roof was mentally fit to stand trial and act as his own lawyer.Roof acknowledged that his comments would seem "out of place" following the opening statement by Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathan Williams, who said Roof deserved to be executed.Williams highlighted Roof's months of planning, his lack of remorse and his motivation for carrying out the crime.
"He killed them because of the colour of their skin, because he thought they were less than people," said Williams, who showed jurors photos of each victim. Six weeks after Roof's arrest, jailers found a handwritten note in his cell expressing white supremacist views, Williams said."I am not sorry," Roof wrote. "I have not shed a tear for the innocent people I killed." (Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Matthew Lewis)
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Published Date: Jan 05, 2017 03:02 AM | Updated Date: Jan 05, 2017 03:02 AM