U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel announced yesterday (January 2) that Dylann Roof—who was convicted last month on 33 federal charges for killing nine Black members of Charleston, South Carolina’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in 2015—will represent himself during the trial’s penalty phase.
The Associated Press (AP) reports today (January 3) that Gergel found Roof, who admitted to his racist, White supremacist motivations in both his confession to FBI agents and the journal found in his car after his arrest, to be mentally competent enough to act as his own attorney. Gergel deemed Roof similarly able to represent himself during the trial late last year. Roof will receive an extra day to prepare for the penalty phase, which is now set to begin tomorrow (January 4). By the end, jurors will decide if Roof will be sentenced to the death penalty or life imprisonment. Gergel did not provide a timeline for the decision.
Gergel announced his decision four days after Roof’s standby counsel filed a sealed motion questioning his ability to proceed. It echoed previous concerns about Roof’s psychological competence and prompted Gergel to order a competency evaluation. The judge also rebuked an attorney representing The AP and other media outlets that objected to the sealed evaluation, saying that he will release a transcript of the results after sentencing.
The New York Times noted that Roof rejected the discipline of psychology via an entry in the journal discovered after the massacre. “It is a Jewish invention, and does nothing but invent diseases and tell people they have problems when they don’t,” he wrote. The AP reports that Roof will not present any evidence or witnesses during the penalty phase, which sharply contrasts the prosecution’s plan to call “38 people related to the nine preople killed and three survivors.”
(H/t CBS News)