Dylann Roof has been charged with nine counts of first degree murder

Dylann Roof has been charged with nine counts of first degree murder and one count of possessing a firearm while committing a crime of violence in connection with the murders of nine people during a Wednesday evening prayer meeting in the sanctuary of the Mother Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC. Roof appeared with court-appointed counsel. The judge found probable cause to support the ten charges and set bail at $1 million. Roof did not enter a plea today because this was an initial appearance, not an arraignment.

The most notable event that occurred during the brief appearance was the comments by members of the various victim’s families. In a remarkable showing of love, solidarity and support for each other in this very difficult time. Most forgave him for what he did as tears rolled down their faces. As the hearing wrapped up, a large crowd of people arrived on foot in front of the courthouse singing gospel songs.

The most chilling circumstance of this incomprehensible crime was revealed by Mr. Roof during a police interview. He told them that he sat in the sanctuary for an hour witnessing the prayer meeting before he pulled out a gun and executed the nine people. I cannot wrap my mind around that. He also admitted to police that the people welcomed him to attend the prayer meeting and almost decided to leave without killing anyone. He decided to stay in order :to complete the mission.

This was a racially motivated crime, but South Carolina is one of five states that does not have a law prohibiting hate crimes. We know that it was racially motivated because Mr. Roof admitted that it was. Despite his admission, most of the Republican candidates have shied away from calling it that.

Meanwhile, as the U.S. flag flies at half mast, the Confederate flag flies at the top of the flagpole. How do you feel about that?

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Frederick Leatherman

Frederick Leatherman

I am a former law professor and felony criminal defense lawyer who practiced in state and federal courts for 30 years specializing in death penalty cases, forensics, and drug cases.

I taught criminal law, criminal procedure, law and forensics, and trial advocacy for three years after retiring from my law practice.

I also co-founded Innocence Project Northwest (IPNW) at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle and recruited 40 lawyers who agreed to work pro bono, assisted by law students, representing 17 innocent men and women wrongfully convicted of sexually abusing their children in the notorious Wenatchee Sex Ring witch-hunt prosecutions during the mid 90s. All 17 were freed from imprisonment.


  1. June 19, 2015 at 6:29 pm

    Interestingly… Feds probe Charleston shooting as ‘act of domestic terrorism’

    Federal officials are investigating the shooting at a historic black
    church in South Carolina as a potential “act of domestic terrorism” as
    well as a hate crime.

    “The department’s investigation of the
    shooting incident in Charleston, South Carolina, is ongoing,” Justice
    Department spokeswoman Emily Pierce said in a statement Friday,
    according to multiple reports.

    heartbreaking episode was undoubtedly designed to strike fear and
    terror into this community, and the department is looking at this crime
    from all angles, including as a hate crime and as an act of domestic
    terrorism,” she added. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said during a press conference in Washington on Thursday that her department was investigating the case as a potential hate crime, vowing to bring the alleged perpetrator to justice.

  2. Bluedot
    June 19, 2015 at 7:36 pm

    Take down that fucking confederate flag.

  3. bsbafflesbrains
    June 19, 2015 at 7:52 pm

    Perhaps their investigation will find Fox news helped “radicalize” Roof? Murdoch the Al-Awaki of the Extremist Right?

  4. Bluedot
    June 19, 2015 at 8:02 pm

    Or you can start in the seventeenth century and work yourself up to now.

  5. caleb36
    June 19, 2015 at 8:36 pm

    It’s not only the Republican presidential candidates who have shied away from calling this a hate crime. Barack Obama called this a “senseless” crime and blamed the lack of gun control laws.

    Hillary Clinton did mention race, but also put the main emphasis on gun violence.

    Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, called the Charleston shootings an act of racist terrorism.

  6. Bluedot
    June 19, 2015 at 11:43 pm

    did not know that but they should still take down that fucking confederate flag. There is more than enough racism, hate and fear mongering to go around without it.

  7. Bluedot
    June 19, 2015 at 11:44 pm

    ok by me. Burn the fucking thing.

  8. Frederick Leatherman
    June 20, 2015 at 10:44 am

    Of course not. As in the Aurora theater shooting case, this case involves multiple victims. That is an aggravating factor that makes it a death-penalty eligible offense. The distinguishing factor is the absence of “a mental disease or defect” that Holmes has.

    According to the available evidence, unlike Holmes who was delusional, Roof is a virulent racist. Racism is a choice and is nowhere defined as a mental disease or defect. I doubt anyone, except perhaps other virulent racists, would classify racism as a mitigating circumstance. Therefore, the prosecutor will likely conclude that there is little or no mitigating evidence to consider in determining whether to seek the death penalty. That’s why I believe she will seek it.

    The prosecutor in the Holmes case decided to seek the death penalty, despite substantial evidence that Holmes was mentally ill when he killed the people in the theater. His mental illness is insufficient to satisfy the insanity defense because he could still distinguish between right and wrong. Nevertheless, it is a mitigating circumstance and jurors have consistently declined to sentence mentally ill defendants to death.

    As I have previously explained, prosecutors are invested with the power or discretion to decide whether to seek the death penalty in a death-penalty eligible case. Because of the mitigating evidence in the Holmes case, I would have decided not to seek the death penalty against him.

    Given the apparent absence of mitigating evidence in the Roof case, I would feel obligated to seek the death penalty even though I am personally opposed to the death penalty in all cases.

    I do not agree with your view that a prosecutor’s discretion to decide whether to seek the death penalty in an eligible case should be eliminated in favor of permitting juries to decide whether to impose it. Your view is unworkable because there are insufficient resources to seek the death penalty in all eligible cases.

  9. Frederick Leatherman
    June 20, 2015 at 12:08 pm

    Here’s a link to an article in The Atlantic by Ta-Nehisi Coates titled, Tear Down the Confederate Flag — Now