Andrew Dys

Death penalty for SC racial killings? Mother of murdered cop says throw the switch

Dylann Roof
Dylann Roof AP

Dylann Roof, who killed black churchgoers because of hate, wants a judge instead of a jury to decide if he gets the death penalty or life in a prison.

There is a woman in Lancaster who needs no judge or jury to say what should happen to a murderer who kills because of racial hatred. There is no debate over the death penalty for Myra McCants.

Throw the switch, she says.

“What good is the death penalty if you never use it for the worst murderers?” McCants asked.

Her son, York County sheriff’s Deputy Brent McCants, was shot and killed in 1992 by a black man named Mar-Reece Hughes. Hughes killed McCants during a traffic stop after Hughes had committed another crime. Hughes killed McCants because Brent McCants was white and Hughes hated white people.

Hughes, in jail waiting for trial after he killed McCants, smuggled in a shank and killed another prisoner, who was white. In two decades, his alleged mental status – and his lawyer’s claims that Hughes is incompetent because he apparently likes to kill white people but does not relish dying much himself – has kept him from the electric chair.

Myra McCants has endured what racial hatred and gun violence do. She has dealt with it for nearly a quarter of a century. The other guy involved in killing her son, another black man named Dwayne Eric Forney, got life in prison. Forney’s mother asked McCants so long ago not to hate, that the family did not have racial hatred. The mothers embraced. A killer’s mother, and the victim’s mother.

McCants has preached love and racial harmony ever since.

“Every person on this earth has a soul that has no color,” McCants said. “The man who killed my son, he hated white people. This white man in Charleston, he killed those black people because he hated black people. He went into a church where God is, and he killed them because they were black.

“We are all people.”

Don’t take Myra McCants’ beautiful heart for being soft on crime, though. Her courage and stand for racial harmony does not mean she does not think Hughes should not get the death penalty. That does not mean she does not think Roof should not get the death penalty.

McCants belives in equality, yes. She also believes in justice. She wants it, and for 24 years she has not had it.

If South Carolina brought in a firing squad for her son’s killer, she would be first in line to watch the triggers pulled.

She would hold the hands of the families of the Charleston Nine murder victims and tell them they are loved – if Roof is put to death.

These racial hatred gun killers – and although Roof has not been convicted, there appears no doubt he is guilty as his lawyers have offered to plead him guilty for life in prison instead of death – seem to have all the rights, McCants said.

“What about the rights of the victims?” she wondered. “The killer has rights, and the victim has none. All these court hearings, all these things, are about the murderer and his rights.

“Where are the rights of those black people shot down in that church? Their families? Their kids and mothers? Where are the rights of my son?”

Myra McCants has cried and wailed and wept and rushed in and out of courtrooms for 24 years to try to get the state of South Carolina to do what it said it would do – execute Hughes for killing Brent McCants over hate.

If Roof gets the death penalty in federal or state courts, there will be so many appeals that last for years and likely, decades.

Myra McCants has lived with appeals and court orders for 24 years.

She does not hate. It is Hughes and Roof who hated. But after what Myra McCants has been through, she's left with little else but to ask:

“Where the hell is the justice?”