“I have to do this”

One of the Guardian‘s reports on the ongoing trial of Dylann Roof bears this title:

Charleston shooting survivor calls Dylann Roof ‘evil’ in tearful testimony.

This title adds negative value to the courtroom dispatch. The fact that a mother broke into tears while recounting the death of her son is trivial compared with the extraordinary circumstances of the young man’s death. The mother’s calling the defendant evil is remarkable because it prompted the defense to move for a mistrial: such labeling is inappropriate at the fact-finding stage. (The judge denied the motion.) Otherwise, there is little newsworthy about a mother calling the man who, she believes, killed her son, “evil.”

What is newsworthy is her testimony before the jury. It could be too much of a revelation about human behavior to some people. Any amount of tears and recriminations is more tolerable than the thought of the underlying disaster, the shooting on June 17, 2015. But it’s the real thing, not courtroom drama. If Ms. Sanders got her facts right, let them speak for themselves:

At this point, Sanders said, her son Tywanza, who had already been shot, got up and attempted to reason with Roof, saying: “Why are you doing this? Why are you doing this?”

Addressing Roof… Sanders said: “And the defendant over there, with his head hang down refusing to look over at me, said: ‘I have to do this.’ And that’s when he put about five bullets in my son.”

After Roof fled the church, she said, she watched her son die.

People will compare this to stories from the Bible, Shakespeare and Flannery O’Connor. Not I.


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