Judge Grants Dylann Roof’s Request to be His Own Lawyer in Death-Penalty Trial

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Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof. Photo by Chuck Burton/AP
Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof. Photo by Chuck Burton/AP

It looks like 22-year-old gunman Dylann Roof, who fatally shot nine Black parishioners at Mother Emanuel A.M.E Church in Charleston, South Carolina, last June, will act as his own lawyer in his upcoming death-penalty trial.

According to Post and Courier, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel on Monday granted Roof’s “unwise” request to represent himself in the federal trial. Gergel noted, “I do find defendant has the personal capacity to self-representation.” Adding, “I continue to believe it is strategically unwise, but it is a decision you have the right to make.”The self-professed white supremacist is facing 33 hate-crime charges, including obstruction of religion and use of a firearm in a violent crime. The hate-crime charges were brought after the Department of Justice ruled the brutal attack was racially motivated, the news site reported.

Gergel’s approval comes just days after Roof was deemed competent to stand trial in the case. Amid questions surrounding the accused gunman’s mental state, Roof underwent a competency test earlier this month to determine if he had “a sufficient present ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding” and “[had] a rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against him.”

“After carefully considering the record before the court, the relevant legal standards and the arguments of counsel, the court now finds and concludes that the defendant is competent to stand trial,” Gergel said at the competency hearing.

The judge urged Roof to rethink his decision, noting that his legal counsel was already a team comprised of skilled capital defenders. Yet still, the accused church shooter insisted on representing himself.

According to USA Today, attorney David Bruck, former lead counsel for the gunman, ceded his seat at the defense table to Roof Monday after the young man requested that his new “standby” council be seated one chair over at the tables, putting him in the top spot.

Roof’s federal trial is set to begin Monday. He has pleaded not guilty to his crimes.

The church shooter also faces the death penalty and separate murder charges in South Carolina. That state trial is scheduled to begin in January.