Court Battles

Dylann Roof appeals conviction, death sentence in South Carolina church shooting

White supremacist Dylann Roof, who was convicted of killing nine worshipers at a black church in South Carolina, is appealing his conviction and death sentence.

Roof and his lawyers filed the appeal Tuesday in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, with his legal team saying he had been too mentally ill to stand trial or represent himself at his sentencing.

“Roof’s crime was tragic, but this Court can have no confidence in the jury’s verdict,” Roof’s attorneys said in a 321-page appeal.

The appeal described Roof as a “22-year-old, ninth-grade dropout diagnosed with schizophrenia spectrum disorder, autism, anxiety, and depression, who believed his sentence didn’t matter because white nationalists would free him from prison after an impending race war.”

Roof was found guilty on 33 federal charges, including hate crimes resulting in death, after he shot and killed nine members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston in 2015. He was sentenced to death in 2017.

Roof initially cooperated with his lawyers until they planned to argue he was “developmentally disabled or mentally ill.” He then decided to represent himself but briefly reinstated lawyers for a portion of the trial before going back to representing himself again for the sentencing.

“His experienced counsel, whom Roof jettisoned to prevent evidence of his mental illness from coming to light, told the court that in their decades of experience, none had represented a defendant so disconnected from reality,” the appeal reads.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel, an Obama appointee, told Roof during the trial that he thought the decision to represent himself was “strategically unwise” but said “it is a decision you have a right to make.”

Roof’s lawyers argued in his appeal that a 2008 ruling, one that allows judges to force a lawyer on defendants lacking mental capacity, justifies their client’s appeal.

Tags Appeal Charleston church shooting conviction death sentence

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