For the Victim’s Sake, The Government Should Allow Mr. Dylann Roof to Plead Guilty to Murder in Exchange for Life Sentences

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Dylann Roof

Most state and federal courts give a defendant a sentencing break for “accepting responsibility” for their wrongdoings. Indeed, in some circumstances, genuine expression of attrition can mean the difference between a probationary sentence and prison. Public policy embraces the notion that a person is more likely to succeed after a criminal case if he or she faces their problems honestly and directly. 

Another reason for crediting an individual who admits fault is that the government saves money by avoiding trial, and more importantly, victims of the crime are spared the emotional and disturbing spectacle of a public trial. Sometimes victims of a crime are re-victimized during such trials.

This is one reason why the government should agree to a life sentence in Dylann S. Roof’s hate crimes trial on charges of killing nine African-American parishioners at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. There are, of course, plenty of reasons why the death penalty should never be imposed, but the Roof case drives home the idea that victims, even in cases where guilt is not reasonably at doubt, are made to suffer more than they already have.

As the New York Times reports, now that Mr. Roof will be defending himself, he will have the potential direct opportunity to cross-examine victims, including family members of the deceased, particularly at the sentencing phase of the proceedings (he will almost certainly be found guilty). The government should accept Roof’s offer to plead guilty and accept a life sentence without the possibility of parole. The victims have suffered enough. 

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