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Why Texas’ ‘death penalty capital of the world’ stopped executing people

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Since the Supreme Court legalized capital punishment in 1976, Harris County, Texas, has executed 126 people. That's more executions than every individual state in the union, barring Texas itself.
Harris County's executions account for 23 percent of the 545 people Texas has executed. On the national level, the state alone is responsible for more than a third of the 1,465 people put to death in the United States since 1976.
In 2017, however, the county known as the "death penalty capital of the world" and the "buckle of the American death belt" executed and sentenced to death a remarkable number of people: zero.
This is the first time since 1985 that Harris County did not execute any of its death row inmates, and the third year in a row it did not sentence anyone to capital punishment either.
The remarkable statistic reflects a shift the nation is seeing as a whole.
“The practices that the Harris County District Attorney’s Office is following are also signifi…

Dylann Roof Is Complaining About Hearing From Too Many Of His Victims’ Anguished Family Members

Dylann Roof
Dylann Roof
CHARLESTON — Dylann Roof, the gunman who massacred nine people at a historically black church in Charleston, complained in court filings Thursday that too many witnesses are testifying about the anguish and horror the victims and their families during and after the shooting.

The motion where Roof objects to what’s known as victim impact testimony comes on the second day of the sentencing phase of his trial. Last month, he was convicted on 33 charges and now the jury will decide if he receives the death penalty or life in prison.

Prosecutors said they have prepared as many as 38 witnesses to deliver testimony to illustrate “the void” felt in these victims’ families in the wake of the tragedy.

Roof is continuing to act as his own attorney. But in a contentious courtroom exchange that happened Thursday during the jury’s morning break, David Bruck, Roof’s stand-by counsel, spoke on his client’s behalf calling the proceeding “a runaway freight train.”

Bruck revealed to Judge Gergel that he and his colleagues, not Roof, had drafted the motion to limit victim testimony on his behalf. And Bruck implored the judge to allow him to be able to object on Roof’s behalf — Gergel denied the request.

“I have to be heard on his behalf because he cannot do it,” Bruck begged the judge. “This man cannot protect his own rights. He cannot do it.”

Hoping to persuade the judge, Bruck added, “This is his sentencing not a memorial service.”

Prosecutor Jay Richardson said that he doesn’t believe that the government will call all 38 witnesses on their list, but added that Roof “is the one who chose to kill nine people…particularly good people!”

On Roof’s motion regarding victim impact, Gergel told Roof he “appreciates” the issues he raised about the amount of victim impact testimony and said he is “monitoring this.”

On the first day, the government was only able to call its first four witnesses due to the length of each person’s time on the stand.

The testimony, for example, included Emanuel AME pastor Sen. Clementa Pinckney’s widow Jennifer recounting how her and her daughter hid in the church that night to survive the shooting. Witnesses have also detailed heartwarming tributes to their fallen loved ones.

Roof’s motion cited several well-known capital trials in an attempt to sway the court that the amount of victim impact testimony is excessive.

He said that at the trial of Oklahoma city bomber Timothy McVeigh, there were 38 victim impact witnesses — the same number as Roof’s trial — despite the fact that in that incident there were 168 people who were killed.

Click here to read the full article

Source: BuzzFeed News, Mike Hayes, January 5, 2017


Dylann Roof cold to victims, but apologized to his parents


Dylann Roof
Dylann Roof
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Before Dylann Roof was arrested for killing nine black church members, he scribbled a note to his mother, apologizing for all the repercussions his actions would cause. Weeks later, in a jailhouse journal, he wrote that he had no regrets.

The evidence, along with his manifesto, hundreds of photos and a confession to the FBI, draw a portrait of a young white man consumed by racial hatred who carefully planned the killings, picking out meek, innocent black people who likely wouldn’t fight back.

Jurors who convicted Roof of hate crimes and other charges will decide whether he should be executed or face life in prison.

ROOF AND RACISM


Roof has pointed out that there was no dramatic confrontation that led him to begin hating blacks. Instead, when the Trayvon Martin case made the news, Roof went to Wikipedia to read about the black teenager who was shot to death in 2012 by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, who was acquitted. That led Roof to research black on white crime and to websites that offer false statistics inflating how often those crimes happen.

Roof was careful in his writings to say his beliefs came just from himself, not his parents. But one of Roof’s old friends suggested otherwise.

“I don’t think his parents liked his decisions, the choices that he made to have black friends,” said Christon Scriven, who is black.

Roof would go between partying with black friends and spewing racist diatribes to his white buddies, Scriven said shortly after the shootings.

Roof also believed the false claims that blacks were better off as slaves and are inferior at their cores to whites. He compared African-Americans to dogs, saying everyone feels bad when a man beats a dog, but no one is surprised when a dog bites a man.

As he sat in jail after his arrest, Roof mused about adopting a white child someday and sought to explain his thoughts on other races, according to a journal found in Roof’s cell.

Lauren Knapp of the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office read the journal aloud in court Thursday. In it, Roof wrote that he felt he would probably eventually be pardoned if he were sentenced to life in prison and believed Adolf Hitler would eventually be canonized as a saint.

He also ranted that Jewish people made America worse by pushing desegregation, that the Hispanic population was growing too quickly and introducing more crime to the nation and Muslims were just as bad as blacks and perhaps more dangerous.

“The Muslim’s violent behavior is increased exponentially by their sick religion,” Roof wrote.

THE SON


When authorities searched Roof’s car, they found birthday cards from his mom and dad, who were divorced, and what appeared to be suicide notes to each of his parents.

Roof’s writings to his mom show a son worried about how she would feel.

“At this moment I miss you very much,” he wrote. “And as childish as it sounds, I wish I was in your arms.”

Roof’s mom suffered a heart attack in court shortly after prosecutors called him a cold and calculated killer in their opening statement.

Roof worked for his contractor father for a time.

“I love you and I’m sorry,” Roof wrote. “You were a good dad.”

In Roof’s birthday card, his father promised to buy him a gun.

THE FRIEND


Dylann Roof
Dylann Roof
Roof had a few friends he would hang out with when he got tired of his parents. One of them, Joey Meek, pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents about what he knew about Roof’s plans.

Meek is awaiting sentencing. His guilty plea included an offer to testify against his friend if asked, but he hasn’t been called to the stand.

Meek and Roof were good friends until Roof dropped out of high school. They reconnected in the months before the shooting, drinking and smoking marijuana. Scriven also would hang out with them at Meek’s house.

Both friends said he talked about a mass shooting. Scriven said Roof wanted to target the College of Charleston, which Roof denied in his jailhouse journal. Meek said Roof talked about killing blacks.

Meek insisted to reporters he had no idea of Roof’s exact plan and was stunned to see his friend in a surveillance photo on TV the morning after the shooting. “I didn’t THINK it was him. I KNEW it was him,” Meek said.

THE LONER


In Roof’s opening statement to jurors to start the penalty phase of his trial, he said there was nothing wrong with him psychologically except “I’m probably better at constantly embarrassing myself than anyone who’s ever existed.”

Agents recovered hundreds of photos from Roof’s cameras. Some were of him posing with the Confederate flag, others were at historic sites across South Carolina. They appeared to be taken with a tripod and a timer, and he is the only person in almost all of them. There are even a few of Roof with a cat in his bedroom.

Roof wrote in his jailhouse journal that he enjoyed being sad and having pity on himself because sadness was such a strong emotion.

Roof told agents when he confessed he reached out to no other white supremacy groups and spoke to no one else about his plans.

His journal ends with another lament: “One of my only regrets is that I was never able to fall in love.”

Source: The Washington Post, Associated Press, Jeffrey Collins , January 6, 2017

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