Last Week, Dylann Roof Wanted to Represent Himself in Court. Now He’s Begging for His Defense Lawyers Back.

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Mugshot of Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof.
Mugshot of Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof.

Just one week after a judge approved Dylann Roof’s request to act as his own lawyer in his death-penalty trial, the Charleston church shooter has asked for partial representation from his seasoned capital-defense attorneys.

According to The (Charleston) Post and Courier, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel on Sunday granted Roof’s request, allowing his lawyers to represent him again during the guilt phase of the trial but not during the penalty phase. The move would give the accused gunman control of evidence presented to the jury in their decision on whether to sentence him to life in prison without parole or give him the death penalty.

Roof is facing 33 hate-crime counts, among other charges, for his role in the heinous Charleston church shooting that left nine African-American parishioners dead. Shortly after the massacre, the 22-year-old self-avowed white supremacist reportedly told investigators he wanted to start a race war.

The shooter’s attorneys have offered to plead guilty and serve life behind bars but only if the feds agree to not seek the death penalty, Atlanta Black Star reported. The government hasn’t budged in its intention to pursue capital punishment, however.

Roof also faces the death penalty and separate murder charges in a state trial, which is set to begin in January.

“I would like to ask if my lawyers can represent me for the guilt phase of the trial only,” Roof said Sunday, just one week after being found competent to stand trial. “Can you let me have them back for the guilt phase, and then let me represent myself for the sentencing phase of the trial? If you would allow that, then that is what I would like to do.”

According to The Post and Courier, Judge Gergel’s surprising move to grant Roof’s request essentially allows the accused’s attorneys to question witnesses, including survivors of the deadly shooting, during the guilt phase of the trial, rather than Roof handling it himself. The week before Sunday’s ruling, however, the church shooter was allowed to interrogate potential jurors.

The final phase of jury selection is expected to begin Wednesday, but Roof has made it a point to gain control of evidence presented in the penalty phase of the trial. USA Today reported that while evidence in the case remains sealed, the gunman’s attorneys were likely to have disclosed a “mental disease or defect” on his behalf. Roof wanted to keep that from happening, as it would sway the jury and impact the results of his sentencing, according to his handwritten motion.

The guilt phase of the trial is also set to begin Wednesday, the news site reported, with prosecutors expected to make their opening statements in the case.

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