The 22-year-old man convicted of brutally killing nine worshipers in a heinous attack at a historically Black church in Charleston, South Carolina, last year announced that he had no intention of offering defense in the sentencing phase of his trial next month.
Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof told District Judge Richard Gergel Wednesday, Dec. 28, that he wouldn’t be providing evidence in his defense or calling witnesses to the stand, both moves that could potentially have spared his life. Come Jan. 3, the sentencing phase of his trial will begin and a jury will start to consider whether Roof should be sentenced to life behind bars or be executed for his crime.
The self-proclaimed white supremacist is expected to make an opening statement when the trial resumes next year, according to USA Today.
“At this point I’m not intending to offer any evidence at all or call any witnesses,” Roof told Gergel, noting that his decision was for the benefit of federal prosecutors seeking the death penalty against him.
“Well, don’t do them any favors,” the judge responded.
Roof also is facing the death penalty in a separate state trial that’s expected to begin next year.
Earlier last month, Roof was granted permission to act as his own lawyer in his federal death-penalty trial but later reneged and asked for partial representation from his seasoned capital-defense attorneys. Gergel, who advised Roof to rethink his decision, ultimately granted the defendant’s request after finding him competent to stand trial.
The judge allowed the young gunman’s attorneys to represent him during the guilt phase of the court proceedings. However, Roof will be on his own in the penalty/sentencing phase. Court documents show that defense attorneys planned to present evidence that Roof was mentally unstable, a move the shooter refuted, prompting him to take the reins and represent himself.
Moving forward, prosecutors said they will include a lead FBI agent and more than 30 family members of the nine victims killed in the deadly attack to help build their case against Roof.
The penalty phase will require jurors to weigh aggravating factors such as lack of remorse and amount of harm done to the victims, USA Today reported. Jury members also will be asked to consider mitigating factors like Roof’s age, his mental capacity and the fact that he has no previous criminal conviction history.
Roof was charged and convicted of 33 hate crimes counts, among several other charges, for the attack at Mother Emanuel AME Church that sparked national condemnation in June 2015.