After being sentenced to death in a federal prosecution, Roof was sentenced to nine life sentences after pleading guilty to state murder charges. I don't think the federal government should have stepped in here, which is not a matter of avoiding the death penalty. The state would have sought it surely. It is a matter of good policy, especially evidence SC would combat rabid racism of this sort. The ruling here might be right on law, but as policy pretty weak sauce. Use of GPS navigation satellites? Is usage of email enough now? ETA: Regarding interests of religious equality and the like, we can federalize any racial attack. The value of federal criminal laws here is symbolism as well as dealing with cases where states for some reason has problems or won't act. Not applicable here. The Boston Marathon bombing is an easier case given size and scope.