Defense attorneys for accused Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof filed a motion Monday evening challenging the legality of the U.S. death penalty.
According to CNN, Roof’s attorneys filed the motion stating they would dismiss the challenge if prosecutors agreed to drop their pursuit of the death sentence in his case.
Roof, 22, is accused of killing nine Black parishioners at Mother Emanuel A.M.E church in Charleston, South Carolina last June. Among the slain was the church’s head pastor, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was also a state senator.
The self-professed white supremacist is facing 33 federal charges, including hate crime charges for reportedly targeting his victims on the basis of their race and religion. Prosecutors at both the state and federal levels are seeking the death penalty for Roof.
Defense lawyers for the accused church shooter argued that the death penalty and federal death penalty law are unconstitutional, claiming that it violates the 5th and 8th amendments, CBS News reports. Attorneys also allude to the rate of errors, inevitable delays of the process, and the fact that many states have worked to move away from the use of capital punishment.
“This court should declare the FDPA (Federal Death Penalty Act) unconstitutional and order that this case proceed as a non-capital case,” attorneys stated in the motion. They also argued that because the death penalty is unconstitutional, “no one can be lawfully sentenced to death or executed under it, no matter what his crimes.”
According to ABC News, Roof’s defense team was sure to note that their challenge arose from the prosecution’s rejection of their client’s guilty pleas, despite his willingness to endure multiple life sentences without the possibility of parole. If the prosecution moves to dismiss Roof’s date with death, defense lawyers will “withdraw this motion and plead guilty as charged to all counts in the indictment.”
Prosecutors had until July 25 to respond to the defense’s offer, the Post and Courier reports.
Earlier this month, the prosecution took a major blow after a judge ruled that the federal case against Roof failed to thoroughly detail a key element of his horrendous crimes. According to Atlanta Black Star, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel found that the prosecution’s case against the accused church shooter didn’t thoroughly explain how his crimes were carried out through the use of “interstate commerce.” Though small, the details were a significant component in allowing the government to indict Roof.
Two weeks prior to Gergel’s ruling, Roof’s defense attorney filed a motion to dismiss all federal charges against their client. In it, they asserted that the federal government didn’t have the constitutional authority to prosecute Roof; instead, the state government should be left to handle the matter, ABS reports. Attorneys also claimed the federal case against Roof violated his 13th Amendment rights (which outlawed slavery) and the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.
Despite Roof’s callous crimes against the unsuspecting worshipers of Mother Emanuel A.M.E, defense attorneys are still fighting fiercely to save his life. The lone gunman entered the historically Black church on the evening of June 17, 2015 to attend Bible study; soon after class was over, Roof opened fire on the group of parishioners, leaving nine of them dead. When investigators asked why he did it, Roof said he intended to start a race war.
“To carry out these twin goals of fanning racial flames and exacting revenge, Roof further decided to seek out and murder African Americans because of their race,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch. “An essential element of his plan, however, was to find his victims inside of a church, specifically an African-American church, to ensure the greatest notoriety and attention to his actions.”
Critics of the defense’s motion to challenge the death penalty in Roof’s case took to Twitter to express their outrage. Some even noted the clear difference between authorities’ treatment of Roof and 23-year-old Korryn Gaines, a Maryland mother who was gunned down Monday during a stand-off with police over traffic violations.
The reactions further highlight the hypocrisy in how law enforcement officials manage to de-escalate situations involving white criminals every day, but resort to drawing their weapons when dealing with African-Americans.
Like a true coward, Dylann Roof has the audacity to challenge being dealt the same fate he gave nine CHURCH goers. https://t.co/QnjoquUdG8
— ☽☼Kiaundra☼☾ (@OMGkee) August 2, 2016
— تنویر (@HIjabbee) August 2, 2016
Fuck Dylann Roof. Don't try and get out from what you did. You murdered 9 innocent people at a church. Fuck off.
— Lucid Hangovers (@leannafarts) August 2, 2016
Look at the way the police handled Dylann Roof & then look at the way police handled Korryn Gaines.
THAT'S THE PROBLEM #KorrynGaines
— I'mani✨ (@imaniCori_) August 2, 2016
Guns down 9 people in cold blood at a church, but thinks the death penalty is "arbitrary, cruel and unusual". ? https://t.co/yIcQD48mgy
— Billy Kincaid (@billykincaid) August 2, 2016