Jennifer Pinckney thought her moments were numbered when she saw a doorknob begin to turn outside the office where she and daughter Malana, 6, cowered beneath a desk in Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church in 2015, shaking as they heard gunfire roar again and again. Yesterday, Pinckney shared her harrowing account during the first day of testimony in the penalty phase of Dylann Roof’s federal hate crimes trial, reports the Charleston Post and Courier. Convicted of 33 federal offenses, Roof faces a possible death sentence for killing nine people inside the historic church. Among the dead was the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, gunned down as his wife and daughter hid.
Pinckney was the first in a string of witnesses who will testify about the gaping holes left in their lives by the killings and the inherent goodness of the nine people who were lost. Pinckney’s words carried a chilling weight after a prosecutor’s revelation that Roof had penned a jailhouse manifesto six weeks after his arrest, saying he had “no regret” for the killings and hadn’t shed a tear for his victims. Acting as his own attorney, Roof told the jury he has no mental health issues or secrets he is trying to hide. It was the first time the 22-year-old white supremacist addressed the 12 jurors who will decide whether he receives a death sentence or a life prison term for his crimes. He offered no explanation or apologies for the bloodshed he left in his wake. “I would like to make it crystal clear. I do not regret what I did. I am not sorry. I have not shed a tear for the innocent people I killed,” he wrote in his jailhouse journal.