Felicia Sanders said it was “music to my ears,” when she heard a federal clerk read the verdict in the last of 33 counts against Dylann Roof.
Sanders said she had expected no less from the jury in the federal hate crimes trial against the 22-year-old Columbia man who shot and killed nine black parishioners at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church in hopes of inciting a “race war.”
“I don’t think that would ever happen on my watch,” said Sanders of Roof’s desires. “I just love people.”
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Sanders was one of two survivors who gave testimony so powerful, under the questioning of U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson, that people in the audience – and even some members of the jury – were brought to tears.
Sanders was at the church on June 17, 2015, when Roof opened fire on her fellow churchgoers, including her son, 26-year-old Tywanza Sanders, and her aunt, Susie Jackson, 87. Roof shot them to death as they lay on the ground.
During her testimony last Wednesday, Sanders was critical of Roof, telling the jury that even after he killed her friends and family, he didn’t even look at her while she was testifying.
“He said he didn’t have any friends,” said Sanders, recalling Roof’s words in a confession video to the FBI.
“But he had nine friends sitting in the church that night,” Sanders said. “If only he had waited right after we said the prayer, we would’ve all gathered around him and found out what his needs were, what his wants were and invited him to come back.”
Sanders spoke with reporters after the trial, along with her husband, Tyrone, and Daniel Simmons Jr., son of Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., who was also killed by Roof. Rev. Simmons 74, was shot and killed when he jumped up and went toward the fallen Rev. Clementa Pinckney, shouting, “Let me check my pastor. I need to check my pastor!’” Sanders testified in court.
The three of them said they would reserve their comments on whether Roof should get the death penalty or not until after the jury decides; though Tyrone Sanders did say his thoughts on the issue were “sort of medieval.”
Roof is expected to represent himself during the sentencing phase of the trial, which is scheduled to begin on Jan. 3. Felicia Sanders said she plans to testify also during that phase of the trial.