Dylann Roof

Feds and South Carolina Both Want to Execute Dylann Roof

Do they plan to kill the Charleston shooter twice?



Yesterday the Justice Department further illustrated the unconstitutional absurdity of the federal hate crime statute by announcing that it will seek the death penalty for Dylann Roof, the man charged with murdering nine people at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, last June. Roof already faces the death penalty if he is convicted in his state murder trial, which is scheduled to begin in January. Do the feds think he should be executed twice?

The federal prosecution is worse than pointless. In the unlikely event that Roof is acquitted by a South Carolina jury, he can be tried again in federal court. That looks an awful lot like double jeopardy, except that the Supreme Court has arbitrarily decreed that serial prosecutions for the same conduct in state and federal courts do not violate the Fifth Amendment.

Roof's bigoted beliefs figured into the rationale for prosecuting him under federal law and the decision to seek the death penalty. He is charged with selecting his victims "because of" their race, and his racist statements before and during the mass shooting count as evidence of that motivation. Explaining their decision to ask for the death penalty rather than life imprisonment, prosecutors cited nine aggravating factors, including the fact that Roof "expressed hatred and contempt towards African-Americans, as well as other groups, and his animosity towards African-Americans played a role in the murders charged in the indictment."

The upshot is that Roof, because of the opinions he has expressed, is more likely to be convicted (since prosecutors can try him again if he's acquitted the first time) and more likely to be executed for his crimes (since if state jurors reject the death penalty federal jurors might still approve it). The Supreme Court says enhancing criminal penalties based on the defendant's bigoted motivation does not amount to punishing him for his beliefs. The Supreme Court is wong.

In addition to the double jeopardy and First Amendment issues, federal prosecutions like this one usurp the powers reserved to the states by the 10th Amendment. Murder is and always has been a state crime, and South Carolina is perfectly capable of prosecuting Roof for it. There is no need or valid constitutional rationale for federal involvement, the justification for which hinges on a reading of the 13th Amendment that could generously be described as implausible.

The federal prosecution of Dylann Roof is not about justice, which South Carolina is already pursuing. Last summer The New York Times reported that "Justice Department and F.B.I. officials have said the Charleston shooting was so horrific and racially motivated that the federal government must address it." In other words, the DOJ is trampling on federalism, freedom of speech, and a basic principle of criminal justice in order to make a political statement.

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  1. The Supreme Court says enhancing criminal penalties based on the defendant’s bigoted motivation does not amount to punishing him for his beliefs. The Supreme Court is wong.

    Misspelling aside, this can’t be said enough.

    Murder is the legal province of the states and grandstanding US Attorneys should go find their own woodchippers.

    1. You only think the Supreme Court is wrong because you don’t understand the law. If you believe that the law is a set of written rules that are interpreted in the courts, then sure, the court is wrong.

      But that isn’t how the law works. What the courts do is first they decide what is right. They can do this by applying their personal morality, getting their talking points from their political team, or by divining with chicken bones. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is that each justice figures out what the right outcome is.

      Then they go back to the law and see if there is a way to backfill their decision with legal arguments. They might have to reach pretty far afield to do this, but luckily they have something called precedent that they can rely on. This means that if they can’t find anything anywhere in the law to support their arguments, they can go find some argument that some other court made and use that instead of using the law. Failing that, they can look outside of American law. Whatever it takes, they find a way to backfill their logic.

      Then poof! Magically up is down, left is right… congress shall make no law gets invisible parentheticals like “unless it is really important”.

      One you understand this, it all becomes clear. Suddenly you can understand how a judge will rule that the law says exactly the opposite of what the words on the page mean.

  2. The Supreme Court is wong.

    Only sometimes.

    1. Our teacher once read to us Roald Dahl, where he had a joke that China had so many Wings and Wongs, every time you Wing you get the Wong number.

      Imagine a teacher reading that today. The teacher would be thrown on top of a bonfire of Dahl books.

      1. What an “Ah, so”!

        1. A Fukien ah so.

  3. Do the feds think he should be executed twice?

    Yes, perferrably by different means. I mean lethal injection won’t work so well after the first execution, but hanging, firing squad and the electric chair will have some effect on the corpse.

    1. If they don’t exhume the body and execute it again, how can the poor little US Attorneys get enough media coverage to kickstart their own runs for Congress?

    2. I suppose they could execute him by firing squad with both state and federal goons at the trigger. That way they could all have something to masturbate to when they go home safely that night.

  4. The Feds are definitely out line.

    That said, I hope South Carolina draws and quarters the piece of shit.

    1. That’s what I thought last night. How about South Carolina gets the arms and the Feds get the legs!

      1. Much better solution than Sarc’s suggestion of two firing squads. That would just lead to arguments over who put more lead in him some bullshit.

        This way SC grabs one side, the Feds grab the other, they both make a wish, and whoever gets the bigger half their wish comes true.

    2. I can’t imagine any conceivable jury not convicting with the death penalty in this case. My personal opinion is that the death penalty should be like abortion, “Safe, legal, and rare”, but in this case, it’s a slam dunk. The only reason the feds should be charging him with anything is that he helped to threaten other citizens’ 2nd amendment rights through his despicable actions.

  5. If the government of South Carolina were implicated in Roof’s actions, then that would be “state action” and trigger the 14th Amendment.

    But if Roof is just a piece of shit acting on his own, hand him over to South Carolina and the tender mercies of their justice system.

  6. OT: “Clinton Pricks Trump’s Populism” Cannot believe this is a current headline at CNN’s website. Had to do a double-take and make sure I wasn’t at Fox News.

    1. Clinton Pricks

      Nice band name.

      1. I heard that band has left leanings.

  7. Sullum inspires awe with yet another excellent observation. *swoon*

  8. Heard on the radio that some state wants to add cops to the list of protected classes when it comes to hate crimes. So someone who kills a cop can be tried for a hate crime as well as murder.

    1. I’d vote for Trump if he swore to get rid of thoughtcrime.

    2. Already done in Louisiana.

      Kinda underscores the lunacy of whole notion of hate crimes, doesn’t it?

      1. Grade inflation ain’t just for schools.

  9. A state that flew the symbol of racism and hate over its very capital city can never be morally pure enough to exercise the righteous power of death over a racist murderer. Only the federal government has the moral legitimacy when it comes to killing.

    1. So, they’re going to murderdrone him?

      1. Then why did they bother charging him? That’s not how Obama usually rolls.

  10. The federal prosecution is worse than pointless.

    Spoken like a man who isn’t a federal prosecutor with a resume to pad.

  11. Man murders, man deserves to die (this is the simplest concept of justice, which is repayment).

    Is the government competent to do it? Is the government competent to do anything?

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