By Harriet McLeod
CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) – The white supremacist sentenced to death in federal court for the 2015 shooting massacre at a historic black church in South Carolina pleaded guilty to separate state murder charges on Monday.
Dylann Roof, 23, was charged in state court with murdering nine African-American parishioners as they closed their eyes in prayer at a Bible study session.
Roof agreed to plead guilty in state court under a deal with prosecutors after being convicted of 33 federal crimes, including hate crimes and obstruction of religion resulting in death. In January, a jury found he deserved the death penalty.
Pleading guilty to the state charges allows for Roof’s transfer to death row and spares survivors and relatives of the victims a second round of courtroom testimony detailing his rampage on June 17, 2015, at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.
He will receive a sentence of life in prison on the state charges, which include attempted murder of three survivors of the shooting, solicitor Scarlett Wilson said last month. State prosecutors abandoned efforts to seek a second death penalty.
Roof was ordered into the custody of U.S. Marshals last week. He has been held at the Sheriff Al Cannon Detention Center in Charleston County awaiting his state trial.
Standing shackled in a striped prison jumpsuit beside his attorney, Roof on Monday told the court he understood he would serve life in prison without eligibility for parole. He waived his right to any appeal.
He is expected to be transferred to the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, that holds male death-row prisoners, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit group that monitors U.S. capital punishment.
Since 1988, when the federal death penalty was reinstated, 76 defendants in the United States have been sentenced to death and three prisoners have been executed, according to the center’s website.
Roof becomes the 62nd current federal death row inmate, and appeals in such cases can take a decade or more, the center’s executive director, Robert Dunham, said in a telephone interview.
(Editing by Letitia Stein and Matthew Lewis)