Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof won′t work to spare his life, denies mental problems | News | DW | 28.12.2016
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Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof won't work to spare his life, denies mental problems

Charleston shooter Dylann Roof will represent himself and not call any witnesses in the penalty phase of his trial. Roof was convicted earlier this month for his attack on the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Dylann Roof, the self-described white supremacist convicted for killing nine African-American churchgoers in Charleston last year, said Wednesday he will not try to persuade the jury to spare his life by admitting to having mental problems.

Roof, handcuffed and wearing a prison jumpsuit, also told the South Carolina court that he plans to represent himself and will not call any witnesses during next week's sentencing phase of his federal hate crimes trial.

Sentencing to begin Tuesday

The Charleston church shooter, 22, was convicted earlier this month for his racially motivated attack on the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, one of the oldest African-American congregations in the southern US states. He was found guilty on all 33 charges, including hate crimes resulting in death.

In next week's sentencing phase, scheduled to begin Tuesday, the same jury will decide whether to sentence Roof to death or life in prison without parole.

On Wednesday, Roof made clear that he wanted no details of his mental health revealed. He asked Presiding Judge Richard Gergel to prevent video interviews about his competency or a transcript from a hearing on the topic in November being used as evidence. "The unsealing of the competency hearing is sort of against the purpose of my representing myself," Roof said.

While not disputing the defendant's guilt, defense attorneys had wanted to call in a mental health expert during the trial. However, Roof rejected the move. In a hate-filled journal entry read to the jury, Roof said he doesn't believe in psychology, describing it as a "Jewish invention" which "does nothing but invent diseases and tell people they have problems when they don't."

Of his decision to represent himself at next week's hearing, Roof told Judge Gergel, "As far as I know, I am not intending to offer any evidence at all or call any witnesses whatsoever." 

Gergel told Roof he thought that was a bad idea. "That's your decision," Gergel said. "I think that highlights my advice to you that you aren't served by being your own counsel." The judge told Roof he has until Tuesday to change his mind.

Dylann Roof poses with a Confederate flag (Reuters)

Roof posed with a Confederate flag in a photograph dated just a month before the June 2015 massacre

Secret evidence

The Associated Press has reported that Roof is working to keep potentially embarrassing evidence about himself and his family from being made public at next week's hearing.

The judge and prosecution tiptoed around the issue without going into details on Wednesday. However, Gergel indicated that the evidence may still be used during next week's penalty phase.

Roof also expressed objections to the prosecution's plans to present a photograph of evidence currently in the court's possession, before also adding that he wanted a jailhouse statement and evidence involving his mother left out of the penalty phase.

Next week's sentencing will see the prosecution call up to 38 people related to the nine people killed and three spared in the June 2015 massacre.

Even if Roof manages to avoid the death penalty next week, he is likely to face the possibility of the death sentence again with his state trial for murder charges, scheduled to begin in January.

dm/cmk (AP, Reuters)

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