CHARLESTON, S.C., Dec. 7 (UPI) -- During opening statements at the start of the federal death penalty trial, assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson described a cold-blooded, methodical approach used by accused shooter Dylann Roof to carry out the massacre at a black church in Charleston, S.C.
Roof, a self-avowed white supremacist, is charged with nine counts of murder, federal hate crimes, obstruction of justice and dozens of other charges over the June 17, 2015, shooting at a Bible study session at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
"Mentally and physically, he prepared himself, conducting target practice and getting in the state of mind in which he would do what he believed he had to do," Richardson told jurors. "He chose to execute nine good and innocent men and women ... and he chose to do so out of a callous hatred of the color of their skin."
Roof's lawyer David Bruck said the defense team would not attempt to dispute what occurred that day, but he urged jurors to keep an open mind and to apply common sense when considering Dylan's motives and actions.
Bruck attempted to tell the jury about Roof's background and what could have influenced him, which drew objections from prosecutors.
"On what planet would a person think you could advance a political agenda by attacking a church?" Bruck said to the 18 seated jurors.
Richardson said Roof's two-hour confession to police was recorded and will be played in court.
"He admitted that he almost didn't do it, that he almost walked out the door ... But in the end he decided, that he just had to do it," Richardson said. "His hate, his racism ... will not win in this courtroom."
South Carolina Sen. Clementa Pickney, 41, who was also a pastor at the church; Cynthia Hurd, 54; Tywanza Sanders, 26; Myra Thompson, 59; Ethel Lance, 70; Susie Jackson, 87; and the reverends DePayne Middleton Doctor, 49; Sharonda Singleton, 45; and Daniel Simmons Sr., 74, died in the attack.
"As each magazine was emptied, shell casings tumbling across the parish hall, he reloaded ... standing over victims, and he kept shooting and shooting," Richardson said.