Dylann Roof, Charleston Shooting Suspect, Is Indicted on Federal Hate Crime Charges

Dylann Roof, center, at a court hearing in Charleston, S.C., last week. Credit Pool photo by Grace Beahm

Mr. Roof, 21, already faces nine counts of murder in state court and could face the death penalty there. But Justice Department and F.B.I. officials have said the Charleston shooting was so horrific and racially motivated that the federal government must address it.

He was also charged with killing someone while obstructing religious freedom, which is eligible for the death penalty.

South Carolina does not have a hate crimes law, and federal officials have said they believe that a murder case alone would leave the racial component of the crime unaddressed.

A grand jury was expected to return a federal indictment on Wednesday afternoon. It was not immediately clear how that indictment would affect the state prosecution. The Justice Department has the option to delay its case and wait to see how the state case ends before deciding whether to proceed with a second trial. Under federal law, a hate crime does not, by itself, carry a possible death sentence.

Authorities have linked Mr. Roof to a racist Internet manifesto and said he was in contact with white supremacist groups before his attack on the Emanuel A.M.E. Church. He was photographed holding a Confederate flag and a handgun.

“I have no choice,” the manifesto reads. “I am not in the position to, alone, go into the ghetto and fight. I chose Charleston because it is most historic city in my state, and at one time had the highest ratio of blacks to Whites in the country. We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the Internet. Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me.”

Survivors said that Mr. Roof arrived at the church as worshipers gathered for a Wednesday night Bible study group. “You are raping our women and taking over our country,” Mr. Roof said to the victims, all of them black, before killing them, witnesses told the police.

The shooting sparked fresh national debate over the symbolism of the Confederate flag. South Carolina lawmakers responded by removing the flag from the State House grounds.



Most hate crimes laws are not worth the toilet paper they are printed on, although some states actually have hate crimes covered under state law that address race/religion/ethnicity; sexual orientation; gender; disability; other; as well as provisions for bias-motivated violence and intimidation, civil action, institutional vandalism, data collection and training for law enforcement personnel.

I prefer to go with the state statutes governing murder per each individual state. In the case of South Carolina:


HISTORY: 2001 Act No. 97, Section 1.

SECTION 16-3-10. “Murder” defined.

“Murder” is the killing of any person with malice aforethought, either express or implied.

HISTORY: 1962 Code Section 16-51; 1952 Code Section 16-51; 1942 Code Section 1101; 1932 Code Section 1101; Cr. C. ’22 Section 1; Cr. C. ’12 Section 135; Cr. C. ’02 Section 108; G. S. 2453; R. S. 108; 1712 (2) 418.

SECTION 16-3-20. Punishment for murder; separate sentencing proceeding when death penalty sought.

(A) A person who is convicted of or pleads guilty to murder must be punished by death, or by a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment for thirty years to life. If the State seeks the death penalty and a statutory aggravating circumstance is found beyond a reasonable doubt pursuant to subsections (B) and (C), and a recommendation of death is not made, the trial judge must impose a sentence of life imprisonment. For purposes of this section, “life” or “life imprisonment” means until death of the offender without the possibility of parole, and when requested by the State or the defendant, the judge must charge the jury in his instructions that life imprisonment means until the death of the defendant without the possibility of parole.

(C) The judge shall consider, or he shall include in his instructions to the jury for it to consider, mitigating circumstances otherwise authorized or allowed by law and the following statutory aggravating and mitigating circumstances which may be supported by the evidence:

(3) The offender by his act of murder knowingly created a great risk of death to more than one person in a public place by means of a weapon or device which normally would be hazardous to the lives of more than one person.


“Murder” is the killing of any person with malice aforethought, either express or implied.

Yep, no questions there.

It is not surprising that South Carolina does not have any hate crime laws on its books.

Then again, South Carolina is not the only state that does not have hate crime laws. There are four other states which do not have hate crime laws, based on any characteristics, as follows:

Georgia, Wyoming, Arkansas, and *Michigan. (To click on a state to view its Hate Crimes Statutory Provisions, go to the source link below the map).



(*Michigan’s hate crime penalty laws do not include sexual orientation, but hate crime data collection laws do.)

Per the Anti-Defamation League website:

“ADL has long been in the forefront of national and state efforts to deter and counteract hate-motivated criminal activity. Hate crime statutes are necessary because the failure to recognize and effectively address this unique type of crime could cause an isolated incident to explode into widespread community tension.’

Guess those states that do not have statutory provisions are pure and clean as the driven snow when it comes to hate crimes.

Sure will be something to see how this human’s trial plays out.

Just the same, I will be shocked if those nine innocent churchgoers receive any…true…justice.

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