Dylan Roof, the (alleged) shooter of a historically black church in South Carolina, may receive the harshest punishment possible if convicted. According to the Grio, the Justice Department is seeking the death penalty tied to his nine counts of murder. Roof’s attorneys reportedly say they were considering a guilty plea until the death penalty became a part of the possible sentencing.

“The nature of the alleged crime and the resulting harm compelled this decision,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch in a brief statement. It went on to say that the department considered “all relevant factual and legal issues.”

This decision has brought on mixed reactions. Some take solace in the fact that, for once, a hefty price is being placed on the taking of black lives. Others, who still condemn Roof’s actions, feel that the use of capital punishment doesn’t solve much outside of briefly satisfying a hunger for retribution.

“Moreover, killing Roof does absolutely nothing to ameliorate the conditions that brought him into being in the first place,” said Ta-Nehisi Coates in his latest piece for The Atlantic. “The hammer of criminal justice is the preferred tool of a society that has run out of ideas. In this sense, Roof is little more than a human sacrifice to The Gods of Doing Nothing.”

There are sure to be ongoing negotiations and arguments made on both sides leading up to Roof’s trial, which is currently set for early next year after being pushed back from this summer. We’ll stay tuned to see how the trial and sentencing play out.

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