Here’s a headline I didn’t expect to run into amidst all the other breaking news this week. The Charleston church shooter is back in the news. What’s popped up is, for the most part, nothing more than a fairly typical procedural move by the lawyers, but it raises at least one interesting question. First, let’s get to the subject at hand: the shooter’s attorneys would like the federal charges pending against him dropped. (Westport News)
Attorneys for Dylann Roof argued in court papers filed Tuesday that the nearly three-dozen charges against Dylann Roof should be thrown out in part because they infringe on a case that is best argued in state court. Attorney Sarah Gannett also said she’d drop the challenge if the government agreed not to pursue the death penalty.
His attorneys have previously said Roof would plead guilty if the death penalty were off the table.
As much as it galls me to say it, on one level his legal team is actually making a point I’ve brought up myself regarding other cases in the past. There’s a time and a place for federal prosecution and a murder case which takes place in a single location – be it ever so heinous – isn’t it. When we see the feds busting in on such a proceeding it’s all too often to invoke some sort of “hate crime” aspect (which should be unconstitutional to begin with) or to drag a civil rights angle into it. I tend to make an exception for particularly gruesome murders which take place in states without the death penalty for obvious reasons. (Reference the Boston bomber.)
In this case that really shouldn’t be a factor. The shooter murdered all of those people in a state which has the death penalty and the prosecutors have already stated they intend to seek it. For his part, the shooter has pretty much admitted to the crime and the evidence is beyond overwhelming. To be fair, he hasn’t confessed in full… he’s just said that he would plead guilty if they take the death penalty off the table.
So there’s the exit question for you to ponder, broken into a couple of parts. Does it really matter who executes this monster? (That is, assuming he doesn’t get some sort of mental illness excuse accepted.) Isn’t it better to let the state take care of it and put the beast down since he murdered citizens of South Carolina? Or is this one of those situations where it’s conceivable that he might dodge the bullet (figuratively) in state court and we’d want to reserve another chance in federal court?
I’ll leave that one for you to ponder.