Sep 8, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Dylann Roof asks appeals court to reconsider death sentence ruling

Dylann Roof appears in court on July 18, 2015, in Charleston, South Carolina.
Dylann Roof appearing in court in July 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. Photo: Grace Beahm-Pool/Getty Images

Dylann Roof, who was found guilty of murder for killing nine members of a Black church congregation in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015, petitioned a full federal appeals court Wednesday to review his previously upheld death sentence.

The big picture: Roof's move comes after a three-judge panel rejected his first appeal in August. Asking the court to rehear his case is one of the few options he has to avoid the death sentence, along with petitioning the Supreme Court or seeking a presidential pardon.

Catch up quick: Roof pled guilty in 2017 and was sentenced to nine consecutive life sentences, one for each individual he killed.

  • He later became the first person in the U.S. to be sentenced to death on federal hate crime charges.

What they're saying: Roof's legal team argued that prosecutors went against past Supreme Court rulings by arguing he deserved the death penalty "based on victim worth."

  • "The Panel’s decision conflicts with this precedent, opening the door to death sentences based on victims’ goodness and worth," Roof's lawyers wrote in the court filing.
"Especially troubling, it sanctions reliance on victims’ religiosity as evidence of that heightened worth."

What's next: If the court grants Roof's appeal, the case will be reheard before the entire court.

  • It would be the last resort appeal before going to the Supreme Court.
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