Dylann Roof Allowed to Defend Himself in Federal Trial for Charleston Massacre

By Sameer Rao Nov 28, 2016

Dylann Roof successfully argued today (November 28) to represent himself in his forthcoming federal death penalty trial, where he faces 33 hate-crime and weapons charges connected to the killing of nine Black parishioners at Charleston, South Carolina’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church last year. 

Charleston’s The Post and Courier reported today that presiding U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel granted Roof the request, a constitutional right, despite expressing reservations. Gergel also allowed, per Roof’s request, for his just-discharged legal team to sit with him during the trial as "stand-by counsel."

The decision to let Roof represent himself comes three weeks after Gergel delayed jury selection over concerns about the killer’s mental competency. The judge ultimately determined Roof, who expressed White supremacist beliefs on his personal website prior to the massacre, comptent for trial in a ruling Friday (November 25).

Jury selection, which was originally slated to begin November 7, restarted immediately after the decision to let Roof be his own attorney. The Post and Courier reported that the first panel of prospective jurors was "all White and appeared to be middle-aged or older." An all-Black group of shooting survivors, relatives and the church’s pastor was present during today’s proceedings. 

In addition to the federal trial, Roof faces a state death penalty trial for nine counts of murder and other charges that will begin in mid-January. The 22-year-old admitted to the massacre soon after his arrest. 

(H/t The Washington Post, CNN, The Huffington Post)