The federal murder trial against avowed White supremacist and murderer Dylann Roof has started with dramatic witness testimony. Roof’s mass shooting attack at Mother Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina that left nine dead shocked America and the world. One of the survivor’s of the attack Felicia Sanders told how she watched her son die by Roof’s hands this past Wednesday in testimony that gripped the Charleston Federal courtroom. Sanders described how she clutched her granddaughter close to her and muffled her cries in the hope that Roof would pass them by. She saw him reload and stalk across the small room as the blood of his victims began to pool around her and her granddaughter. She stated that Roof was “evil, evil, evil” and he belonged in “the pit of hell.” Sanders repeatedly locked eyes with Roof and stated, “He just sits there the whole time. Evil, evil, evil as can be.” Sanders also said that when she heard that Roof was stating he wanted kill himself, “I was counting on that. There’s no place on Earth for him other than the pit of hell.” Shortly after Sanders’ testimony, Roof’s biological mother, Amelia Cowles, who was watching the courtroom proceedings suffered a heart attack and fell unconscious.
This Thursday morning, Roof’s defense team asked the judge for a mistrial because of Sanders’ statements that he believed were religious and did not belong in a court of law. The lawyer in the case argued before Judge Richard Gergel that he interpreted Sanders’ comment regarding “the pit of hell” as religious and that in her view he had “no other place on Earth” was not pertinent to prosecutors’ argument that Roof should be sentenced to death. The judge denied the motion for mistrial a few hours later and stated in part that Sanders’ comments did not apply to Roof’s sentence, which his team says is the only subject for debate; there was no reason to throw out Sanders’ testimony. Roof’s lawyers and Roof do not deny that he is guilty of the mass murder. They are attempting at this time to get a life sentence on the 33 counts that he is charged with rather than the death penalty.