Dylann Roof (146471)

He was taken into custody alive, bought Burger King for a snack and now he gets to die. Social media erupted in excitement over the death sentence of Dylann Roof, because finally a white man would be held accountable for murdering innocent Black people.

However, if we take a step back, we see that the criminal justice system of this country is so perverse and bends so undeniably toward the comfort of whites that even Roof’s sentence is an example of white privilege. It certainly was not a punishment for the murderer. It is what he wants. There is no doubt that if Roof wanted to live, the courts would have made it happen for him. If you have any doubt about that, then you need to re-examine what took place leading up to and during the trial.

In April, his defense attorney asked for his trial to be delayed because his psychiatric evaluation was not completed. The prosecutors in the case asked for their own independent psychiatric evaluation—as a precaution to counter anything that the defense would come up with. So, there were several months of delays, and the conclusion was that there is nothing, absolutely nothing, wrong with this man. 

He would eventually be found guilty. But then there was the issue of sentencing. In a last ditch effort to save Roof—presumably from himself—days before the start date of Roof’s sentencing hearing, a federal judge requested a second psychiatric examination of the murderer. This murderer, who meticulously staked out Black churches, made a list of them and finally decided to attack the members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, was apparently in need of another psychiatric evaluation. 

Through this whole process Roof has been unapologetic, boldly asserting that there is nothing psychologically wrong with him. To temper his complete disregard for his actions, some mental health and law experts, including his defense team, had the gall to raise the question—openly—of whether or not Roof was “hiding” his mental issues. How does one accomplish this feat? If he was so incompetent, then how could he be competent enough to hide his psychiatric problems from a group of medical professionals?

One lawyer (not involved in the case), as reported by Business Insider, even said, “The best evidence of [Roof’s] mental illness is that he refuses to let anyone know it when it could save his life.” The lawyer added, “This crime wasn’t the product of a normal brain.”

This crime? This crime of planning the murder of people, solely because they’re Black, is not the product of a “normal brain?” So since the beginning of America, people, including politicians, have been operating with abnormal brains? Because what happened in that church during this crime is not new in the history of this country. 

What has been increasingly clear during this whole case is that if Roof had presented some sob story about his childhood to the courts, then the court system would have been ready and willing to back him up. But he didn’t want to live the rest of his life in prison, because he is a coward. In the end, the jurors, made up of three Blacks and nine whites, simply took him out of his own personal, well-deserved hell. He should have gotten life in prison at a maximum security prison with time in solitary confinement. That would’ve been punishment. 

Let’s not kid ourselves either. If Roof wakes up one morning and decides that he doesn’t want to die after all, then he has a chance to file appeals on his death sentence. If he wakes up one morning and regrets the fact that he decided to represent himself during his trial, then he could ask for a new trial. This case is not over, as stated by his initial defense team. So, you see, the pathway to endless excuses for Roof is not over.

Before we begin celebrating his death sentence, we should think of how, from the very beginning, the court system had seemingly been on Roof’s side and not the side of the nine innocent murder victims.