By Colleen Jenkins
(Reuters) – Dylann Roof, convicted and sentenced to death in federal court for the 2015 massacre at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, will plead guilty to separate state murder charges, the prosecutor handling the case said on Friday.
Roof, a white supremacist, is charged with killing nine African-American parishioners on June 17, 2015, during a Bible study meeting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. The hate-fueled shooting of the churchgoers as they closed their eyes to pray stunned the country.
As part of a plea agreement, Roof will be sentenced to life in prison and forgo a state trial, Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said by phone. State prosecutors also had been pursuing the death penalty but that will be taken off the table.
He is due to enter his plea on April 10.
Roof, 22, was sentenced to death in January after a federal court trial that ended with jurors finding him guilty of 33 charges, including hate crimes resulting in death.
Wilson declined to discuss with Reuters why state prosecutors opted for the plea agreement. But she told the Post and Courier newspaper in Charleston that “the goal is to get him into federal custody so their sentence can be imposed.”
The Reverend Anthony Thompson, whose wife Myra was slain by Roof, endured weeks of graphic crime scene evidence and wrenching testimony during the federal trial. He said on Friday he was grateful to be spared another.
“The federal trial was very satisfactory for me,” Thompson said in a phone interview. “I’m not dealing with this anymore. I’m not concerned with Dylann Roof. I’m praying for him and that is it.”
(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Additional reporting by Harriet McLeod; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Tom Brown)