Dylann Roof trial update: Taped confession, mother’s testimony, manifesto and latest news


Dec. 7 marked the beginning of the federal trial for Dylann Roof, the 22-year-old charged with murdering nine black churchgoers at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston, South Carolina, in June 2015. Roof is currently facing 33 federal charges, 18 of which could make him eligible for the death penalty if he is convicted.

The trial, which began on Wednesday, has so far included graphic photo evidence of the attack, along with testimony from law enforcement officials, shooting survivor Felicia Sanders and Keon Gordon, a friend of victim Tywanza Sanders, who presented a Snapchat video Tywanza Sanders recorded during the attack. 

Here's what to know about the trial as it enters its second week.

Taped confession video

In day three of the trial, jurors were shown a two-hour videotaped FBI interview conducted with Roof after he was arrested in Shelby, North Carolina, in which Roof expressly confesses to his crime. "I am guilty," Roof says during the videotape, Mic previously reported. "We all know I am guilty."

When asked why he carried out the attack, Roof responded, "Well, I had to do it, because somebody had to do something. Because black people are killing white people every day. They are raping white women. Nobody is brave enough to do anything about it."

Roof's white supremacist manifestos

Stephen B. Morton/AP

Roof's race-motivated attack and statement appears to be the culmination of long-held white supremacist views, as suggested by manifestos allegedly written by Roof that will be used as evidence by prosecutors in the trial. 

One manifesto was discovered on a white supremacy website following the attack, the New York Times reported. In the nearly 2,500 word manifesto, Roof wrote:

I have no choice. 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.

The website, lastrhodesian.com, also contained racist rants and photos of Roof posing with wax slaves, firearms and the Confederate battle flag. The website is no longer available, and is reported by the New York Times to have been taken down the Saturday following the attack. 

In addition to the online manifesto, manifestos espousing Roof's white supremacist views were also found in Roof's car and jail cell, Newsweek reported. Also found in Roof's possession were handwritten lists of churches and letters. The prosecutors are expected to call handwriting experts to testify during the trial in order to prove the manifestos were, in fact, written by Roof.

Roof's mother

In its opening moments, the emotional trial had a tragic effect on Roof's mother. Court documents by Roof's attorney, David Bruck, released on Thursday reveal that Roof's mother had a heart attack on Wednesday.

Chuck Burton/AP

After hearing the opening statements by prosecutor Jay Richardson, in which he detailed Roof's actions at the Charleston church, Roof's mother collapsed after trying to stand. As family members and court security came to her aid, she is reported as saying "I'm sorry" several times. The report of her heart attack was included as part of Bruck's request for a mistrial due to the emotional nature of the first day's testimony, which was denied by U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel.

Additionally, one of the items of evidence, local Charleston newspaper the Post and Courier reported, consists of a letter written by Roof to his mother, apologizing for the attack. "Dear mom," the note reads. "I love you. I'm sorry for what I did, but I had to do it."

What to expect next

The trial has begun its fourth day of proceedings on Monday, with Brittany Burke, a former State Law Enforcement Division crime scene investigator, taking the stand to testify about the belongings found in Roof's car following his arrest. These items, the Post and Courier reported, included a Glock .45-caliber pistol with ammunition, small American and Confederate battle flags, a second burned American flag and the aforementioned handwritten list of black churches in Charleston. Monday's proceedings are also expected to include a response by Gergel to a motion filed by the defense late Sunday night, which requested Gergel take corrective measures regarding the district judge's allowance of Sanders' testimony earlier in the week. During her emotional testimony, Sanders referred to Roof as "evil," telling the jury, "there's no place on Earth for him but the pit of hell."

The prosecution is expected to finish its case by the middle of the week, the Post and Courier reported. Additional witnesses that are likely to be called before then include Joey Meek, a friend of Roof's who testified that he knew about the attacks in advance, but did not alert authorities, and later lied to law enforcement during their investigation of Roof's attack. The final witness is likely to be 71-year-old retired nurse Polly Sheppard, a survivor of the attack who Roof allegedly allowed to live so that she could tell the story of what he had done.

Chuck Burton/AP

The defense will then be able to make their case. Mic reported, however, that Roof's lawyer Bruck has already conceded that his defendant is guilty of the crime, and that it is unlikely the defense will call many witnesses or ask questions in cross-examinations during the guilt phase of the trial. The focus will be instead on Roof's sentencing and fighting against the potential death penalty.

"The law errs on the side of life," Bruck said on Wednesday. "Our society does not order anyone to be put to death if there are reasons to choose life."

Sentencing will begin after the penalty phase of Roof's trial begins on Jan. 3, in which prosecutors will begin to argue why Roof should pay for his crimes with the loss of his own life. Roof will act as his own representation during this phase, the Post and Courier reported.