Let Dylann Roof rot in jail

    A group of women are shown praying together on the sidewalk in front of the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston

    A group of women are shown praying together on the sidewalk in front of the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston

    Roof, the white domestic terrorist who shot and killed nine black Charleston churchgoers in the hope of starting a race war, was convicted in federal court yesterday of 33 hate crimes. Federal jurors will decide next month whether he should get the death penalty. Then he’ll be tried again by the state of South Carolina, and, if convicted, state jurors will decide whether he should get the death penalty.

    What a waste of time and money. That’s typically what happens when prosecutors seek the death penalty.

    The only upside of writing about Dylann Roof is that it’s a brief hiatus from Donald Trump. But I’ll take what I can get.

    Roof, the white domestic terrorist who shot and killed nine black Charleston churchgoers in the hope of starting a race war, was convicted in federal court yesterday of 33 hate crimes. Federal jurors will decide next month whether he should get the death penalty. Then he’ll be tried again by the state of South Carolina, and, if convicted, state jurors will decide whether he should get the death penalty.

    What a waste of time and money. That’s typically what happens when prosecutors seek the death penalty.

    Roof offered to plead guilty in exchange for life in jail with no possibility of release. The feds said no. The state said no. But they should’ve taken that deal — purely for pragmatic reasons. Death penalty cases are extremely costly, they drag on for years, and their longevity actually makes it harder for the victims’ families to get any kind of closure. It’s noteworthy that, in South Carolina, 65 percent of African Americans want the white racist to live out his life behind bars.

    Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who is black, believes otherwise. She made the call to seek the death penalty — a decision supported at the time by candidate Hillary Clinton — stating that “racially motivated violence such as this is the original domestic terrorism.” Indeed it is. And maybe Roof’s crimes were so heinous that a government-sanctioned execution feels like justice. But there’s no magic formula — never has been — to ensure that the penalty is applied fairly. Indeed, it has long been a well-documented fact, especially in the South, that a disproportionate share of death penalty defendants are black.

    As Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, recently pointed out, “the real-life operation of the death penalty suggests that its application to Roof would only pave the way for future cases in which the death penalty is invoked to harm the very community on which Roof inflicted so much pain.”

    Henderson also lamented that if Roof gets the death penalty, the victims’ families and the survivors of his attack will face “years of appeals and uncertainty.” He got that right.

    At last count, 15 red and blue states have concluded that the death penalty is a costly, protracted mess. Kansas reports that because the cases string out for so long, the taxpayer tab is four times higher than other cases. New Jersey, shortly before abolishing its death penalty, found that taxpayers, during the previous 23 years, had coughed up $253 million for “a capital punishment system that has executed no one.” It’s no wonder that a Georgia Republican official wrote last year that capital punishment “is nothing more than an expensive, wasteful, and risky government program.”

    Perhaps the expense could be justified if the death verdict helped families heal. But psychological studies say otherwise. For instance, the authors of a report at Marquette University Law School concluded that families and friends of murder victims “may prefer the finality of a life sentence and the obscurity into which the defendant will quickly fall, to the continued uncertainty and publicity of the death penalty.”

    And there’s one more argument for letting Roof rot in jail:

    His death would do nothing to address — much less drain — the racist cesspool that nurtured him. He honed his violent beliefs by trolling the Internet for fake stats about black-on-white crime; he fried his brain on websites that stoked centuries-old fears of black rapists ravishing white women; he lived on websites that preached the purported glories of white supremacy.

    So let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that one twisted kid’s execution would constitute justice for America. When it comes to racist extremism, and the easy availability of weapons, there is no closure.

    OK, back to Trump. Inevitably so.

    The only thing more sickening than Russia’s pro-Trump cyberinvasion is Trump’s refusal to accept the reality of the cyberinvasion.

    Yesterday, after the news broke that Vladimir Putin had personally directed his trolls to pollute the election discourse, Trump took a few moments out of his busy morning to work his thumbs and vent his outrage … at Vanity Fair magazine. Because it had dissed the food in the Trump Tower restaurant. Yes, folks, Vanity Fair is more of a menace than Putin. Trump sure has his priorities.

    But he did subsequently address the Putin issue — by tweeting a blatant falsehood. Natch.

    In Trump’s words, “If Russia, or some other entity, was hacking, why did the White House wait so long to act? Why did they only complain after Hillary lost?”

    No, they did not “only complain after Hillary lost.” They complained on Oct. 7, which, according to calendars published in realityworld, is a date that occurred one month before the election.

    On that date, the Obama adminstration authorized the release of a joint statement from the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (which itself speaks for 17 agencies): “The U.S. Intelligence Community is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations.”

    The statement also said: “These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process. Such activity is not new to Moscow — the Russians have used similar tactics and techniques across Europe and Eurasia, for example, to influence public opinion there. We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.”

    It’s possible, yesterday, that Trump didn’t even know he was lying. It’s possible that he simply didn’t remember what happened on Oct. 7, and didn’t remember that Hillary Clinton threw the statement in his face at a debate on Oct. 19. Either way, he’s a disgrace. Ronald Reagan, who attained Republican sainthood for being tough on Russia, must be turning in his grave.

    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1, and on Facebook.

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