Court Battles

Supreme Court denies appeal by Charleston church shooter

The Supreme Court on Tuesday denied an appeal by Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof, leaving in place his death sentence for the 2015 shooting deaths of nine Black congregants.

The court’s denial came in a brief unsigned order without explanation, as is customary.  

Roof had urged the justices to review his case to resolve several technical legal questions that have produced different answers in federal appeals courts across the country, and which Roof claims affected his case. 

Among those issues were whether a defendant or his legal counsel should ultimately decide whether to show a jury mitigating evidence of a defendant’s purported mental illness, which can lead to a lighter sentence. 

Roof fired his legal counsel during his sentencing and represented himself after the court told him that he could not stop his attorneys from introducing evidence depicting him as mentally ill, despite his objection. As a result, his brief argued, Roof presented “no evidence or intelligible argument for his own life.” 

Roof was sentenced to death for the racist slaying of nine Black congregants at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., which he hoped would spark a race war.

The Supreme Court’s denial of his appeal on Tuesday comes after a three-judge panel presiding in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit unanimously affirmed Roof’s execution last year.

Court Battles