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Roof won’t testify as prosecution rests

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CHARLESTON, S.C. — Convicted killer Dylann Roof said Monday he will offer no witnesses to counter the prosecution’s case that he should die by execution.

As the jury watched, Roof rose from his table in the front of the courtroom around noon Monday.

“The defense rests,” Roof told U.S. Judge Richard Gergel, then sat back down.

Only minutes before, federal prosecutors had rested their case.

Gergel then sent the jury home for the day with instructions to get a good night’s sleep.

On Tuesday, jurors will begin deliberating Roof’s fate.

Before deliberations start Tuesday, federal prosecutors will make a closing argument to the jury, summing up the facts about this case they say warrants a decision to give Roof the death penalty.

Roof, 22, has indicated he will make a closing statement to the jury. But he could change his mind and make no statement at all.

If Roof does speak to the jury, he will follow prosecutors. They will not be able to cross-examine him on anything he might say.

But if Roof should speak, prosecutors are allowed a rebuttal of what he says.

In December, the same jury that will begin deciding whether he lives of dies Tuesday found Roof, an avowed white supremacist from the Columbia area, guilty of hate crimes in the June 2015 shooting deaths of nine African-Americans.

The nine, all unarmed, were participating in a weekly Wednesday night Bible study at the historic “Mother Emanuel” AME church in downtown Charleston. Roof had planned the crime for months, evidence showed.

Over four days, since last Wednesday, Department of Justice prosecutors have put on 23 witnesses in an effort to show the jury that Roof deserves the death penalty.

Twenty-one of the government’s 23 witnesses gave testimony about the character of the victims and how their loss affected their family, friends and community.

Two witnesses were in law enforcement. Their testimony concerned the white supremacist propaganda Roof had steeped himself in during the months before making his final decision to kill in order, as he wrote, to start a race war in America. The jury also was shown a jailhouse journal that authorities had found in his cell after his arrest.

At Roof’s December trial, the guilt-or-innocence phase of the two-phase death penalty case, the government put on 36 witnesses. Their testimony included evidence that ranged from technical, internet, eyewitness, medical and other sources that persuaded jurors that Roof was the killer, and that he acted alone. Government evidence also included a two-hour videotaped confession that Roof made to two FBI agents hours after his arrest the day after the shootings.

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