Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson announced Thursday that she will seek capital punishment for Dylann Roof, who is charged in the Emanuel AME Church massacre. It’s hard to imagine a crime more fitting for the death penalty.
As Solicitor Wilson aptly put it: “This was the ultimate crime, and justice from our state calls for the ultimate punishment.”
The law of our state provides capital punishment as an option for premeditated murders with any of 12 categories of “aggravating circumstances.”
The Emanuel AME murders should qualify under this one: “The offender created a great risk of death to more than one person in a public place by using a weapon.”
Consider not just the large scale of this “ultimate crime” — nine lives brutally taken.
Consider, too, the circumstances under which it was allegedly committed and the vile motive cited by the authorities. Mr. Roof is charged with killing the Emanuel AME Church members — after they welcomed the 21-year-old stranger from Eastover into a Bible study session.
Law enforcement officials say the crime was driven by virulent white-supremacist ideology.
Yet numerous members of the grief-stricken families of the Emanuel Nine demonstrated awe-inspiring grace by expressing forgiveness during Mr. Roof’s June 19 bond hearing.
And clearly, public opinion is shifting on capital punishment. While a majority of Americans still back it, the level of that support has fallen to a 40-year low at 56 percent, according to a Gallup poll released this spring.
Indeed, after the unicameral Legislature of Nebraska, hardly a liberal hotbed, voted in May to end the death penalty in that state, conservative columnist George Will approvingly wrote: “Capital punishment is withering away.”
Still, capital punishment is part of the law in our state, though it hasn’t been implemented here since May 6, 2011, when Jeffrey Motts was executed by lethal injection.
He was sentenced to death for killing a cellmate in 2005 at a state prison in Greenville County, where he was serving a life sentence for murdering two senior citizens in a 1995 robbery in Spartanburg County.
Yes, our legal system should temper punishment with mercy — when appropriate.
The Emanuel AME massacre, however, was a merciless assault on innocent people — and on human decency.
If that heinous crime doesn’t warrant capital punishment, what does?