Dylann Roof, who killed nine parishioners at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, is facing the federal death penalty. But CNN reports Roof’s defense lawyers have filed a legal challenge to the punishment, saying it’s unconstitutional.
Roof admitted to attempting to incite a race war and has been charged with 33 federal offenses, including hate crime charges.
“The facts of this case are indisputably grave,” the defense team argues in the motion. “But if, as we contend here, the FDPA [Federal Death Penalty Act] is unconstitutional, no one can be lawfully sentenced to death or executed under it, no matter what his crimes.”
The lawyers continued to say in the motion they were raising “only questions related to the death penalty” stemming from the “government’s decision to seek the defendant’s execution rather than accepting his proffered pleas of guilty and willingness to accept multiple sentences of life imprisonment without possibility of release.”
The defense said should pursuit of the death penalty be dropped, “Mr. Roof will withdraw this motion and plead guilty as charged to all counts in the indictment.”
The one-year anniversary of the Charleston shootings was June 17 and the country took time to mourn the loss of the victims: Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Rev. Sharonda Singleton, Cynthia Hurd, Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Ethel Lance, Susie Jackson, Myra Thompson and Rev Daniel Simmons Sr.
The anniversary came just days after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando on June 12.