White nationalist Dylann Roof is appealing his federal convictions and death sentence in the massacre that killed nine people at a historically Black church in Charleston, South Carolina.
In a briefing filed with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday, attorneys for Roof argued the then 22-year-old was deranged and never should’ve been allowed to represent himself in court, according to The State.
Lawyers painted the gunman as a ninth-grade dropout who was suffering from “schizophrenia-spectrum disorder, autism, anxiety, and depression.” They added that Roof, who underwent a competency hearing ahead of his 2017 trial, “believed his sentence didn’t matter because white nationalists would free him from prison after an impending race war.”
A jury would sentence him to death following his conviction on 33 federal counts related to the June 2015 massacre at Mother Emanuel AME Church.
Roof attended Bible study at the Charleston church on the evening of June 17, 2015. About an hour into studying, he stood up, drew his weapon and opened fire on parishioners inside the worship hall. When asked about his motive, the gunman told investigators he was trying to start a race war.
Church pastor and South Carolina state Sen. Clementa Pinckney died in the shooting, along with Cynthia Graham Hurd, Susie Jackson, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lance, Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Rev. Daniel L. Simmons Sr., Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton and Rev. Myra Thompson.
Chris Singleton, the son of Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, reacted to news that his mother’s killer would be appealing his death sentence. In a tweet, Singleton wrote: “Forgiveness was granted & justice was served. Let’s keep it that way!”
He concluded his message with the hashtag #CantLetMomsDown.
In their appeal, Roof’s attorneys further argued that jurors did not get to hear evidence of their client’s mental state because Roof never testified on his own behalf. Roof, now 27, fired his original attorneys back in 2017 and now has a new public defender handling his case.
Prosecutors have until mid-February to respond to the brief.
Roof remains on death row in the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana.