Oral arguments set for this week in Charleston church shooter’s appeal
Attorneys for Dylann Roof, the white supremacist who was sentenced to death for killing nine worshippers at a black church in South Carolina, will make oral arguments this week in his appeal to overturn his conviction and death sentence.
The Associated Press reported that oral arguments are set to begin on Tuesday in front of a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia. Appellate Judge Jay Richardson, who was an assistant U.S. Attorney that prosecuted Roof’s case, will not sit on the panel.
Roof was found guilty on 33 federal charges after he shot and killed nine members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in 2015, when he was 21 years old. One of the charges he was convicted of was hate crimes resulting in death.
Roof’s death sentence in 2017 was the first for a federal hate crime in the U.S., according to the AP.
Roof’s attorneys contended in a brief that an appellate court should vacate Roof’s convictions and death sentence, or send the case back to a lower court for “proper competency evaluation,” the AP reported.
The lawyers said the federal trial that decided on a death sentence “departed so far from the standard required when the government seeks the ultimate price that it cannot be affirmed,” according to the wire service.
Roof filed his appeal in January 2020, with his legal team arguing that he had been too mentally ill to stand trial or represent himself at his sentencing.
Roof at first cooperated with his legal team, until they decided to argue that he was “developmentally disabled or mentally ill.” At that point, he decided to represent himself.
Soon after, however, he reinstated lawyers for a portion of the trial, before jettisoning the team and restoring himself as his counsel for the sentencing.
Gergel, according to the AP, conducted two competency hearings for Roof – one before the beginning of his trial, and one before the sentencing portion – to determine if he was able to act as his own attorney during part of the trial.
Roof’s legal team said the court errantly concluded that Roof was competent, despite the fact that “every defense expert agreed Roof suffered a delusional belief he would be rescued by the victors of a race-war, which prevented him from understanding the threat of execution was real,” according to the AP.