Washington: The US government is seeking the death penalty in the case of the Charleston church shooting which killed nine people last year.
US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said on Tuesday that she had decided to request the death penalty for Dylann Roof, who is white, adding that "the nature of the alleged crime and the resulting harm compelled this decision."
Although US President Barack Obama has been reticent to apply the death penalty in certain cases, on this occasion the government decided to ask for the maximum penalty after carefully reviewing the facts and legal elements of the case, Lynch said.
The government last year successfully asked for the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the confessed co-author of the 2013 Boston Marathon bomb attacks that killed three people and injured over 260 others.
Last July, 22-year-old Roof was charged with 33 federal counts and accused of committing a hate crime guided by racial motives when he opened fire on June 17 on a group of African-American people at a Bible study session in the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.
Six women and three men, including church pastor and state Senator Clementa Pinckney, died in the attack and, according to one of three survivors of the massacre, Roof justified his actions by saying that blacks are "taking over" the US.
The federal government decided to file charges against Roof for hate crimes because South Carolina does not allow for such charges in its legal code.
In South Carolina, however, the Roof will have to face nine counts of murder, three of attempted murder and another for weapons possession, crimes for which he could also be sentenced to death if found guilty.
Relatives, friends and acquaintances have testified that Roof - who has several arrests for minor crimes on his record - is a timid, solitary, antisocial young man with racist tendencies