Survivor's testimony, 911 call cap Dylann Roof trial as feds and defense rest their cases
Polly Sheppard, one of three survivors of June 2015's massacre at a Charleston, South Carolina, church, was the last witness called before the federal government rested its case in Dylann Roof's capital hate crimes trial on Wednesday.
In her testimony, Sheppard recounted to jurors how Roof methodically gunned down nine of her fellow parishioners during a bible study meeting at Charleston's Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. When Roof got around to Sheppard, he pointed his gun in her direction, but didn't fire, she said.
"He told me to shut up," Sheppard said, according to the State. "He asked me, 'Did I shoot you yet?' I said, 'No.' He said, 'I'm not going to. I'm going to leave you to tell the story.'"
Sheppard said she began to pray, as Roof continued to shoot at members in the church's fellowship hall.
As an aid to her testimony, federal prosecutors played Sheppard's call to 911, which she made from the cellphone of shooting victim Ethel Lance, according to a BuzzFeed News report. Reporters covering the trial from the courthouse in Charleston tweeted portions of the 911 recording:
At the conclusion of Sheppard's testimony, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson told Judge Richard Gergel that the government was resting its case. Roof's defense team, headed by David Bruck, also rested, after Gergel denied their motion to dismiss charges related to the attempted murder of the shooting survivors and his obstruction of their exercise of religion. Bruck argued that prosecutors failed to prove Roof had attempted to murder Sheppard and fellow survivors Felicia Sanders and Sanders' young granddaughter.
In court, Roof said he would not testify in his own defense, the State reported.
Roof was tried on a 33-count federal indictment that alleges he targeted Emanuel AME, a historic African-American congregation, on June 17, 2015, because he knew the parishioners were black. If convicted, Roof, a professed white supremacist, faces the death penalty.
According to several reports, Gergel dismissed the jury early on Wednesday. Closing statements are scheduled for Thursday morning, the Charleston Post and Courier reported.