HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Criminal defense attorney Greg McCollum says federal death penalties get overturned more often than not because the actual sentence itself can be appealed. By not also getting the death penalty in his state trial on Monday, McCollum says the chances of actually executing Dylan Roof became much more slim.
"The state had three choices, they could dismiss the charges in state court, they could plead the charges as they did with life in prison, or they could seek the death penalty a second time," said McCollum.
State prosecutors chose not to go for the death penalty, and instead went with the second choice. "Let's say that you were convicted of federal murder, and received the death penalty in state court, now you've got two death sentences, and the chances of two cases being overturned are less likely than one," said McCollum.
According to The Death Penalty Information Center, only three people have actually been put to death by the U.S. Government since the federal death penalty was reinstated in 1988. "A lot of death sentences get overturned because they generally go through this automatic review process where the appellate court examines the entire records to see if there were any fatal procedural flaws," said McCollum.
While the punishment may not be as condemning as some would hope, giving Roof nine back-to-back life sentences certainly sends a message. "I think it gives closure to people, but also in the court system; the federal trial was a bit unusual in that it happened. You don't normally see that in the normal course of court cases. What was more likely is that the state would handle it," said McCollum.
At the end of the day, McCollum says one thing is all but certain, Dylan Roof will never get out of prison. "And regardless of what happens with a death penalty verdict judgment later on, it's in all likelihood based on the legal standards, the plea is not going to be overturned," said McCollum.