Judge grants Roof's request to act as own attorney in federal trial

  • Judge grants Roof's request to act as own attorney in federal trial

Judge grants Roof's request to act as own attorney in federal trial

The slow process of picking a jury for the federal death penalty trial of the white man accused of fatally shooting nine black parishioners at a SC church continues with the defendant now in charge of his own defense.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel also said specifically he wanted Roof to address him directly in court, not via his standby counsel, whose participation might enable Roof to complain on appeal that the lawyers he fired had done too much.

"Mr. Roof has made the decision to represent himself", the judge said. "It's Strategically unwise, but he has a constitutional right to make it", Judge Gergel said.

Roof, who is white, is accused of fatally shooting nine black members of the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina in June 2015.

Roof offered to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence last week, but prosecutors refused the deal.

Both the U.S. Constitution and federal law make the right to self-representation available to all citizens.

This comes after a 3-week delay in the trial while experts fulfilled an extensive evaluation of Roof's mental competency.

Gergel dismissed several people who expressed conflicted feelings about capital punishment or said a death sentence should always be the penalty for murder.

Jury selection continued on Monday that consisted of 20 jurors were questioned with seven being deemed qualified and 13 jurors excused.

Roof, 22, said he killed the churchgoers to incite a race war. There are 495 potential jurors will go through voir dire.

She told the judge during Monday's hearing that she had not followed the case so it was hard for her to say what she would do theoretically.

He will also face the possibility of the death penalty in state court because he's been charged with nine counts of murder, three counts of attempted murder, and a firearms charge. In the blink of an eye the accused mass murderer seems to be doing his level best to prove the courts wrong and act as insane as possible.

Earlier this month, as final jury selection was getting under way, defense attorneys raised concerns for the first time about whether Roof was able to understand the nature of the proceedings against him and to assist in his defense.

Roof sat in the lead chair at the defense table, wearing a striped jail uniform but no handcuffs or shackles. The lawyers can stand by and help Roof if he asks.

"After carefully considering the record before the court, the relevant legal standards and the arguments of counsel, the court now finds and concludes that the defendant is competent to stand trial", Gergel said at the competency hearing.

Only two groups will be interviewed each day at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Attorneys will question the prospective jurors until they assemble a group of 70 individuals.

Twelve jurors and six alternates will be chosen to hear testimony.