Each church shooting victim hit at least 5 times
Charleston, S.C. — Prosecutors are finishing their case against Dylann Roof in his death penalty trial in the killing of nine black worshippers at a Charleston church.
Testimony opened Thursday with a presentation from Dr. Erin Presnell, the medical examiner who said she did autopsies on all nine victims over four days. Prosecutors are expected to wrap up their case with testimony from a survivor who they say Roof intentionally left behind so that she tell people about his racially motivated attack.
The medical examiner had a slide show with generic drawings of the victims with their gunshot wounds marked by letters. She also had X-rays of each person killed at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, with black spots the size of a penny showing the bullets that remained inside of them and pictures of the bullets she removed.
Every victim was shot at least five times, Presnell said. Many of them had several wounds to their arms. Several times, Presnell stepped down from the stand to show how someone with their arms pulled up tight against them could end up having a bullet enter and exit their bodies several times.
Other victims had shots closely clustered together. Earlier testimony from Roof’s confession to the FBI and survivor Felicia Sanders said many of the victims hid under tables when the shooting started.
Prosecutors asked Presnell what killed each victim. Her answer for almost every one: “multiple gunshot wounds to vital organs.”
Sheppard and other family members of victims stayed out of the courtroom for Presnell’s testimony.
After Presnell finishes testifying, assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson said he plans to call to the stand Polly Sheppard, who Sanders and Roof both said he left alive to tell people that the 22-year-old white man killed the nine black people as revenge because of crimes blacks had committed against whites and other racist beliefs.
Attorney David Bruck has said he plans to call several witnesses in Roof’s defense, and the case is expected to go to the jury on Thursday.
If the jury finds Roof guilty of hate crimes and obstruction of religion, they will return next month to decide if he is sentenced to life in prison or the death penalty.