Malcolm Graham was driving south on Interstate 85 when he learned Thursday that Dylann Roof had been found guilty of killing Graham’s sister and eight others at a Charleston church.
The former state senator from Charlotte said he was not surprised, nor did he lament not being in the courtroom when the unanimous jury verdict came in.
“Justice was served,” he said as he drove toward home after a business trip to Greensboro. “There was no reason for me to be there ... Many of us knew he was guilty a year and a half ago.”
On June 17, 2015, Roof prayed with then shot the pastor and eight members of historic Emanuel AME Zion Church. He later told prosecutors that he hoped the slaughter would start a race war. Cynthia Hurd, a Charleston librarian and Graham’s big sister, was among the victims.
Roof, 22, now faces a second trial early next year that will determine whether he spends the rest of his life in prison or will be put to death. State prosecutors are waiting to also try Roof on a capital murder charges at a later date.
Graham believes Roof’s crime demands the ultimate punishment.
“If what he did does not deserve the death penalty then take it off the books,” he said. “I’m still resolved to the fact that he should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
The federal trial lasted little more than a week. Graham said the hardest part being in the courtroom was watching video of Hurd arriving for the prayer service in which she would die.
“Seeing my sister ... laughing, happy, still teaching – she was showing the minister some research she had done ... And then she went into the church,” Graham said.
Roof’s federal prosecutors have already asked Graham to testify for Hurd in January during the punishment phase. If called, he says he will do so.
That decision is several weeks away. As he talked, Graham was headed home to north Charlotte for family night. Kim and Malcolm Graham’s two daughters are back from college for the holidays, and the night promised good food and conversation all around.
Given the day’s events, Cynthia Hurd would be on all of their minds, too, her brother said.