CHARLESTON, S.C. – Felicia Sanders said it was “music to my ears,” when she heard a federal clerk read the verdict in the last of 33 counts against Dylann Roof: “Guilty.”
Sanders said she expected no less from the jury in the federal hate crimes trial against the 22-year-old Columbia man who shot and killed nine black parishioners at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church in hopes of inciting a race war.
“I don’t think that would ever happen on my watch,” said Sanders of Roof’s desires. “I just love people.”
Sanders was one of two survivors who gave testimony so powerful, under the questioning of U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson, that people in the courtroom — and even some members of the jury — were brought to tears.
Sanders was at the church on June 17, 2015, when Roof opened fire on her fellow churchgoers, including her son, 26-year-old Tywanza Sanders, and her aunt, Susie Jackson, 87. Roof shot them as they lay on the ground.
During her testimony, Sanders was critical of Roof, telling the jury that even after he killed her friends and family, he didn’t even look at her while she was testifying.
After Roof’s arrest, many victims’ families said that they forgave him.
Sanders spoke with reporters after the trial, along with her husband, Tyrone, and Daniel Simmons Jr., son of the Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., who was also killed by Roof. The Rev. Simmons 74, was shot and killed when he jumped up and went toward the fallen Rev. Clementa Pinckney, shouting, “Let me check my pastor. I need to check my pastor!’ ” Sanders testified in court.
The three of them said they would reserve their comments on whether Roof should get the death penalty or not until after the jury decides; Tyrone Sanders, however, did say that his thoughts on the issue were “sort of medieval.”
Roof is expected to represent himself during the sentencing phase of the trial, which begins Jan. 3. Felicia Sanders said that she plans to testify again.