Charleston, S.C. (WCBD) –Admitted Charleston Church Shooter Dylann Roof will defend himself in the Federal death penalty case against him. On Monday morning, the judge announced that Roof had filed a motion the night before asking to represent himself.
Roof sits in the lead council chair. His former capital defense attorney David Bruck still sits at the front table with Roof; however, he is there simply in a “standby” capacity. According to News 2 Reporter Ashley Yost who is inside the Federal Courthouse, Bruck seems visibly agitated. At times, he stood up as if to make an objection, but was ignored as he no longer has the ability to do so. Bruck and Roof exchange whispers occasionally throughout the proceeding.
This comes after a 3-week delay in the trial while experts fulfilled an extensive evaluation of Roof’s mental competency. It was just this past Friday that the judge announced that Roof was mentally fit to stand trial.
In court Monday, Roof wore a striped jail jumpsuit and fidgeted with a paper on the desk before asking to represent himself. Roof appraoched the bench, and Judge Richard Gergel asked Roof a series of questions before approving his request to represent himself. Included in the series of questions from Judge Gergel, “Are you aware of the seriousness of this act? Are you sure you want to proceed? You understand the potential punishment? You know only experienced capital defense are capable of representing you?” Roof answered yes to all of the questions. He answered no to one question, “Is there anything else you would like to add?” When asked if he agrees with the filings against him, Roof laughed and answered, “Not all of them.” Judge Gergel concluded Roof is able to represent himself. “I have observed that he has the ability, has the personal capacity. It’s Strategically unwise, but he has a constitutional right to make it,” Judge Gergel said.
The jury selection restarts Monday. The jury pool is just under 500 people. When 70 qualified jurors are picked, attorneys can use strikes to dismiss those they don’t want, until 12 jurors and six alternates are seated.
The selection process was halted Nov. 7 after lawyers for Dylann Roof questioned his ability to understand the case against him. U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel held a two day closed mental competency hearing where he heard from expert witnesses testifying on Roof’s mental competency. Judge Gergel’s ruling last week cleared the way for Monday’s process to begin.
Roof, 22, is charged with counts including hate crimes and obstruction of religion in connection with the June 17, 2015, attack at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. He faces a possible death sentence if convicted.
We talked to Sharon Risher whose mother Ethel Lance was one of the nine people murdered last year. Risher said learning the news that her mother’s killer was fit to stand trial was “like a big sigh of relief.”