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A Most American Terrorist: The Making of Dylann Roof

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“What are you?” a member of the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston asked at the trial of the white man who killed eight of her fellow black parishioners and their pastor. “What kind of subhuman miscreant could commit such evil?... What happened to you, Dylann?”
Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah spent months in South Carolina searching for an answer to those questions—speaking with Roof’s mother, father, friends, former teachers, and victims’ family members, all in an effort to unlock what went into creating one of the coldest killers of our time.
Sitting beside the church, drinking from a bottle of Smirnoff Ice, he thought he had to go in and shoot them.
They were a small prayer group—a rising-star preacher, an elderly minister, eight women, one young man, and a little girl. But to him, they were a problem. He believed that, as black Americans, they were raping “our women and are taking over our country.” So he took out his Glock handgun and calmly, while their eyes were closed in prayer, ope…

These days, North Carolina’s death row inmates die of natural causes

RALEIGH - When Jerry Cummings died last week at age 76, he became the ninth death row inmate in North Carolina to die of natural causes since 2006, when the state’s last execution took place. And he won’t be the last.

With executions essentially on hold in North Carolina, the state’s death row population is aging. Of the 152 inmates on death row, 66 are age 50 or older. The oldest, Blanche Moore, who was convicted in Forsyth County in 1990 of murdering her longtime boyfriend with arsenic, is 83.

The prison population overall is getting older. At the end of 2015, there were 1,963 prisoners age 60 or older, more than three times as many as in 2005, according to the state Division of Prisons. Nearly 1 in 5 of the state’s 37,000 prisoners is now age 50 or older.

The graying of the prison population is a long-standing national trend. In 2006, the state commissioned a study to document its aging prison population and to help plan for it. The study noted that longer prison sentences combined with the overall aging of the U.S. population had made the elderly the fastest-growing portion of prison inmates.

The report also noted that the National Institute of Corrections defines elderly inmates as those age 50 or older, because as a group they show the effects of drug and alcohol abuse and poor health care.

“Our medical staff would tell you that many of the inmates who come to prison have generally had poorer access to health care throughout their lives and on average they present with conditions consistent with being about a decade older than their actual age,” said state prisons spokesman Keith Acree. “In other words, people 60 years old in prison present with medical conditions more like the average 70-year-old in the community.”

The state has not executed anyone since Samuel R. Flippen was killed by lethal injection in August 2006 for first-degree murder in Forsyth County. Since Flippen’s death, a series of lawsuits filed in state courts questioning the fairness and humanity of capital punishment have created a de facto moratorium on executions.

At the same time, courts are sentencing fewer people to death in North Carolina, mirroring a national trend away from capital punishment. Of the 152 people on death row, 18 were sentenced since Flippen’s execution a decade ago; 98 of them were sentenced in the 1990s.

As a result, death row skews older than the rest of the prison population, with an average age of 48 compared with 37 overall.

Most people leave death row alive, usually because their death sentences have been vacated and they were resentenced to life in prison. One death row inmate, Henry McCollum, was declared innocent by a judge and freed in 2014 when DNA evidence implicated another man in the 1983 rape and murder of an 11-year-old Robeson County girl.

Cummings, who died last week, was sentenced to death twice for the murder of Jesse Ward in Robeson County. He was first sentenced in 1987. That was later overturned, but not the conviction, and another jury sentenced him to death a second time in 1997.

Source: News and Observer, Richard Stradling, April 22, 2016

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