Judge grants Dylann Roof’s request to act as his own lawyer

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Dylann Roof, charged with murdering nine worshippers at a historic black church in Charleston last month, listens to the proceedings with assistant defense attorney William Maguire during a hearing at the Judicial Center in Charleston

Roof will be allowed to represent himself, but can rely on help from his lawyers. Photo by Randall Hill/Reuters

A federal judge granted Dylann Roof’s request Monday to represent himself in an upcoming murder trial.

Roof, who is white, is accused of fatally shooting nine black members of the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina in June 2015. U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel called Roof’s decision “unwise” but ruled the accused has the capacity and right to represent himself in court. Roof’s lawyers will still be allowed to stay by him and help him if he asks them to do so.

The 22-year-old is being charged with 33 federal crimes. Among those are nine counts of murder, 12 counts of violating the Hate Crime Act, nine counts of obstruction of exercise of religion resulting in death and nine counts of use of a firearm to commit murder.

Roof has pleaded not guilty.

Jury selection is also underway. The judge is first questioning each potential juror, the Associated Press reported. Once 70 are selected, the lawyers from each side will be allowed to question and dismiss some of those they do not want on the jury.

If Roof is convicted, the Justice Department plans to seek the death penalty.

“The nature of the alleged crime and the resulting harm compelled this decision,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in May.

Shortly after the shooting, police discovered Roof had posted pictures of himself with Confederate and Nazi symbols and uploaded a manifesto that criticized black people as inferior. One of the church’s survivors also said Roof told her that he let her live so she could tell the world about the shootings.

After a mental evaluation, Roof was deemed competent to stand trial last week. Judge Gergel sealed his reasons for the finding, saying the information could prevent Roof from having a fair trial, according to the Associated Press.

The trial is expected to start in early 2017.

In June, Rev. Betty Deas, who took over as pastor of Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church after Rev. Clementa Pinckney was killed in the shooting, spoke with Jeffrey Brown to reflect on the tragedy and its aftermath one year later.

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