Dylann Roof’s lawyers want back on death penalty case
Columbia, S.C. — Defense attorneys dismissed by Charleston church shooting defendant Dylann Roof strongly condemned his decision to represent himself and filed a motion Friday to get back on the case.
The lawyers are worried Roof may not present evidence that could sway a jury to spare his life while acting as his own attorney during his federal death penalty trial and that would violate the U.S. Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
The lawyers said they did not know why Roof wanted to represent himself but added that other defendants in capital cases have fired their lawyers to avoid having embarrassing evidence revealed. The lawyers also suggested that Roof might deliberately sabotage his own defense in order to get the death penalty.
“The reliability of the most complicated proceeding known to the criminal law … cannot be assured with an untrained layperson — in this case, a 22-year-old ninth-grade dropout,” the four defense lawyers wrote.
Unlike other motions filed since Roof took over his own defense Monday, this request isn’t signed by Roof.
Even after Roof took over his own defense, the lawyers are still sitting with him in court, and Roof frequently consults with them. How much the attorneys can help has become its own source of conflict between Roof and U.S. Judge Richard Gergel. The judge said Roof has to accept that he is his own attorney and make his own decisions.
Roof, who is white, is charged with federal hate crimes, obstruction of justice and nearly three dozen other charges in the killing of the nine African-Americans at the end of a Bible study in June 2015 at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.
Police said he hurled racial slurs during the shooting and left three people alive so they could tell the world the killings were because he hated black people.
Roof himself has filed several motions in recent days, including one asking Gergel to delay the start of testimony several days from next Wednesday to the week of Dec. 11. Roof said he has not filed several requests he wants to make before testimony begins.
Gergel has not taken up the motions, instead spending Friday on a fifth day of questioning potential jurors to qualify a pool of 70 people from which prosecutors and Roof will choose for the final jury. Some 53 people were qualified by the end of Thursday, and Gergel hoped to finish the job Friday.