4 Sep 2015

Death penalty call for Charleston shootings

1:56 pm on 4 September 2015

Prosecutors in the American state of South Carolina say they will seek the death penalty for a white man accused of shooting dead nine black people at a church in Charleston.

A memorial in front of Emanuel AME Church on July 31, 2015 in Charleston, on the day Dylann Roof was arraigned on 33 federal charges.

Mourners sign a memorial to the nine people shot dead at a Charleston church. Photo: AFP

Dylann Roof is charged with murdering the nine parishioners in June during their Bible study class.

When he was arraigned in July, he pleaded not guilty. Following his arrest, he reportedly confessed to wanting to start a "race war".

Prosecutor Scarlett Wilson said the killings were "the ultimate crime" and deserved "the ultimate punishment".

The 21-year-old also faces separate charges of hate crimes.

The church where the killings took place is a nationally known historic black church, and prosecutors claim the massacre was racially motivated.

After the shootings, photos emerged online of Roof holding the Confederate battle flag, sparking a backlash against the emblem, which to many is a symbol of slavery.

Ms Wilson said family members of the victims respected her decision to seek the death penalty, despite differing views on the punishment.

"Some family members of victims, because of their faith, do not believe in the death penalty under any circumstances. Some believe the death penalty is just too easy.

"Still others believe that the death penalty for the murders at Mother Emanuel Church is entirely appropriate."

- BBC

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