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Commentary

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Dylann Roof was sentenced to death for murdering nine people participating in a Bible study to which he had been welcomed. In a hail of bullets and horror he killed Cynthia Marie Graham, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, Depayne Middleton, Clementa Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel Simmons, Sharonda Coleman and Myra Thompson.

Roof is a radicalized white supremacist, espousing an ideology and acting violently upon his beliefs. Nothing in the time between the commission of the crime and the trial appears to have been done to de-radicalize him or help him acknowledge the harm he committed.

The initial harm of the killings has rippled out over time affecting everyone who has come in contact with the case. And now the jurors have found themselves seduced into the violence and have determined a death sentence. The sentence will be imposed later this week. Roof has already made his intention to appeal known and has requested counsel.

On the face of it, Roof is a poster-boy for the death penalty. In particular, his remorseless statement of no regret is repulsive and shocking. He appears to show himself to exist beyond the pale of civilized society and thus deserving of permanent exclusion.

However, we might bear these possibilities in mind: first, people in a corner, as they are in capital trials, are in survival mode and it is very hard to get them to think empathetically about those they see as their attackers. This takes huge amounts of imagination, work and commitment on the part of their defense teams