The chief prosecutor in Charleston, South Carolina will seek the death penalty for Dylann Roof, the man charged with murdering nine members of a historic African-American church.
Solicitor Scarlett Wilson announced that decision in a court filing on Thursday. Roof was indicted in July on nine counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder for the June 17 massacre at Charleston's Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
"Forgiveness does not necessarily mean forgoing consequences. Even severe consequences," Wilson said during a Thursday news conference, noting that several relatives of the victims had said they do not believe in capital punishment.
"All have showed great respect, even deference, for my decision to seek the death penalty," Wilson said.
"This was the ultimate crime," she said, "and justice from our state calls for the ultimate punishment."
Under South Carolina law, a convicted murderer is eligible for the death penalty if "two or more persons were murdered by the defendant by one act or pursuant to one scheme or course of conduct."
A dozen people have been sentenced to death in South Carolina in the past decade, according to state Department of Corrections data. The state last executed an inmate in 2011.
"This is a state that has the death penalty, and it imposes it," Miller Shealy, a former South Carolina assistant state attorney general, told Reuters earlier this summer.
One of 31 death penalty states, South Carolina provides for both lethal injection and the electric chair as methods of execution.
A death sentence is not guaranteed for Roof. If he is found guilty, the jury would then have to unanimously vote for capital punishment in a separate phase of the trial.
Famed anti-death penalty lawyer David Bruck, who recently defended Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, has signed on to defend Roof in a separate federal trial on 33 hate crimes charges. Federal prosecutors have not yet announced whether they will seek the death penalty.
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