On Jan. 10, 2017, Dylann Roof was the first to be sentenced to the death penalty for a Federal hate crime. Roof carried out a racist attack against Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 17, 2015, during a bible study.
According to the New York Times, Roof took part in the Bible study, listening to the other participants and contributing to the discussion before taking out a .45-caliber Glock semiautomatic pistol and shooting. Nine people were killed.
Roof has been noted of having no emotion or remorse about the shooting and believed that he needed to start a “race war” and stop the “epidemic of black on white crime.” The jury’s dilemma was not deciding if he was guilty or not, but what the punishment would be.
Capital punishment, also known as the death penalty, has evolved from public lynchings and hangings to the electric chair. Cyanide gas was also introduced in 1924 and was seen as a more “humane” way to kill criminals. In the 1920s and 40’s, the death penalty was seen as a necessary action to get rid of criminals. Capital punishment is legal in 31 states.
According to a fact sheet from the Death Penalty Information Center, lethal injections are the most common method, but electrocution, gas chambers, firing squads, and hanging are backup procedures.
Although the death penalty has been used against criminals since the birth of the nation and even earlier, a survey stated that 88 percent do not believe that the death penalty lowers homicide rates. The survey was taken among the former and current presidents of the country’s top criminological societies. Five percent said that the death penalty does lower homicide rates, and 7 percent had no opinion.
As for everyday people, a poll from Lake Research Partners in 2010 showed that 61 percent believed that forms of punishment, such as life with parole, life without parole, and life without parole plus restitution, should be carried out instead of the death penalty. CNN also reported that the support of the death penalty has dropped from 80 percent to 60 percent in the last 20 years. There is no evidence that fully shows which is the more effective punishment.
Not only is the death penalty viewed as a non humane punishment, but it is also expensive. According to the Kansas Judicial Council in 2014, “Defense costs for death penalty trials in Kansas averaged about $400,000 per case, compared to $100,000 per case when the death penalty was not sought.” The costs to taxpayers in death penalty states will eventually increase.
Although Dylann Roof has been sentenced to death, it is possible that the act will never be carried out. The federal government has not executed a criminal in the last 14 years. However, along with his federal charges, he also is accused of 13 charges in South Carolina including murder, attempted murder, and possession of a handgun during the commission of a violent crime. It is possible that Roof could receive another death sentence at the state level.