The mother of the avowed white supremacist who gunned down nine black parishioners in Charleston, South Carolina was admitted to the hospital Wednesday (Dec. 7) during the first day of the Charleston massacre trial.
NBC News reports Amelia Cowles’ heart attack was included in documents sent to U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel on Thursday (Dec. 8) requesting a mistrial over a witness’ testimony. Roof’s attorney David Bruck called witness Felicia Sanders’ testimony so emotional that “spectators and even court personnel — including members of the prosecution and defense — were crying with her.”
Sanders recalled the chilling moment she watched her son, 26-year-old Tywanza Sanders, was shot to death by Roof as he pleaded with him to spare their lives. Sanders also lost her aunt Susie Jackson, 87, in the shooting at Emanuel AME Church in June 2015 where Roof was welcomed during a bible study session. “I watched my son come into this world and I watched my son leave this world,” Sanders said. In order for her to stay alive, Sanders moved towards a pool of blood, tricking Roof into thinking she was shot. She also held onto her 11-year-old granddaughter so hard, fearing she would suffocate her.
“He just sat there the whole time, evil, evil, evil as can be,” she said about his demeanor before the shooting. “He said he was going to kill himself. And I was counting on that. He is evil. There is no place on Earth for him except the pit of hell.”
Her “hell” comment was the focus of the defense’s motion, claiming Sanders gave a suggestion on the sentencing. Denying the motion, Gerkel deemed it “a religious comment” and said “any decision on guilt or a sentence is up to the jury — not the attorneys or witnesses in the case.”
Cowels said “I’m sorry” in court several times during the emotional case before collapsing. Her condition is currently unknown.
Photos of the crime scene were also shown as families of the witness wept. Shell casings, cartridge magazines combined with Bibles, purses and blood were seen in the 360 computer images. Throughout the trial, Roof looked towards the defense table.
On Thursday (Dec. 8), Charleston police Sgt. Dan English testified as the surveillance footage showed Roof entering and leaving the church was aired. Lead prosecutor Jay Richardson added survivor Polly Sheppard, who Roof left alive, to the list of witnesses. BuzzFeed News reports Sheppard said Roof found her praying aloud while hiding. After asking her if she was shot, Roof told her “he would leave her alive to tell his story,” Richardson said.
Roof is charged with 33 counts, including hate crimes resulting in death. The jury consists of 13 women and five men, including 12 whites, five African-Americans and one who identifies as “other.”