People walk past photos of victims of last year's shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church before a memorial service honoring those killed in Charleston, S.C.. (Chuck Burton/AP)
SOUTH CAROLINA
Charleston marks year since church killings

The city of Charleston came together Friday for a memorial and other events to mark the first anniversary of the killings of nine members of a Bible study group in what prosecutors called a racially motivated hate crime.

The events were made even more poignant coming less than a week after a gunman slaughtered 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, marking the largest of many mass shootings in modern U.S. history.

A stage at Charleston’s TD Arena was fronted by banner portraits of each of the nine victims from the rampage at Mother Emanuel AME Church.

Hymns were led by a 100-member choir, and a minister prayed for the Charleston and Orlando victims, as well as for the soul of the accused church shooter, Dylann Roof.

Roof, 22, could face the death penalty on state murder charges and federal hate crime charges. Roof is white, while his victims were African American, and the federal indictment against him said he acted out of racism.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) showed the programs from nine funerals she has kept since last summer, and she spoke about faith and each victim.

— Reuters

TEXAS
Death row inmate is granted a reprieve

Attorneys who contended “junk science” was used to send a father to death row for killing his 2-year-old daughter 14 years ago have won a reprieve, blocking the Texas inmate’s execution, set for next week.

Robert Roberson III, 49, was set to die Tuesday for the February 2002 death of his daughter, Nikki Curtis, at his home in Palestine in East Texas. But the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals sent his case back to his Anderson County trial court late Thursday to review claims he is innocent of capital murder.

Lawyers argued that Roberson’s conviction was based on “false, misleading and scientifically invalid testimony” and that new scientific evidence establishes he would not have been convicted.

The child had serious head injuries, and Roberson contended she accidentally fell from a bed. Medical staff at a Palestine hospital called police because they considered the injuries suspicious. Physicians who examined her said bruises to her chin, cheek and jaw and a subdural hematoma — bleeding outside her brain but inside her skull — probably were intentional and no accident.

Nikki died the next day, Feb. 1, 2002, and a medical examiner ruled blunt-force head injuries as the cause.

Defense attorney Benjamin Wolff told the appeals court that Nikki’s death could be attributed to a number of things, such as undiagnosed meningitis.

— Associated Press

NEW JERSEY
Former black student leader sentenced

A former leader of a black student group was sentenced to 90 days in jail for tweeting anonymous threats against fellow black college students.

Kayla McKelvey pleaded guilty in April to creating a false public alarm. She had sought to be allowed to enter a pretrial intervention program that would have allowed her to avoid jail time, but a judge denied the motion a few days before her guilty plea.

Under terms of her sentencing imposed Friday in Union County, McKelvey also will serve five years’ probation, serve 100 hours in a labor-assistance program with the county sheriff’s department and undergo anger management and counseling.

In a statement to the court, McKelvey apologized for sending the messages and said her intent had been to raise awareness about racial issues.

Prosecutors alleged the 25-year-old tweeted threats from a Kean University library because she wanted more people to attend a November 2015 rally. She then returned to the rally to tell people about the threats.

The university increased security, and several law enforcement agencies were also alerted, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The police response and heightened security cost about $82,000, and McKelvey will pay restitution in that amount.

— Associated Press