White supremacist Dylann Roof on Tuesday appealed his convictions and death sentence for the murder of nine black church members in South Carolina
January 28, 2020 at 10:57 pm
3 min reading
RICHMOND, Virginia –
White supremacist Dylann Roof on Tuesday appealed his convictions and death sentence in the 2015 massacre of nine black church members in South Carolina, arguing that he was suffering from schizophrenia and other psychological disorders when he represented himself at his capital trial. .
In a legal document filed at the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Roof's lawyers said that when a judge allowed him to represent himself during the penalty phase of his federal trial, he was a 22-year-old teenager at the ninth grade "who believed his sentence did not matter because white nationalists would release him from prison after an impending racial war".
Roof's lawyers said Roof fired his lawyers to prevent evidence of his mental illness from being presented to the jury. They argued that, due to "the court's haste to move the case forward", the jury never heard any mitigating evidence.
"Roof's crime was tragic, but this court cannot trust the jury's verdict," argued Roof's lawyers.
Roof became the first person to be executed for a federal hate crime when he was sentenced to death for fatally shooting nine members of the black church at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 17, 2015.
Prosecutors said he specifically chose Emanuel AME, the oldest black church in the South, to carry out the massacre. After he was arrested, Roof told FBI agents that he wanted the shootings to bring segregation back or perhaps to start a racial war.
The jury's verdict came after a trial in which the avowed white supremacist showed no remorse or tried to fight for his life. Roof served as his own lawyer during the sentence and never explained why he committed the massacre.
Roof's legal counsel has repeatedly expressed frustration that Roof would not allow them to present evidence of mental health that could save their lives.
Roof asked jurors to forget everything they heard from their legal team about their mental state, declaring, "There is nothing wrong with me psychologically."
"I still feel like I had to do this," said Roof in his closing argument.
"Anyone who hates anything on their mind has a good reason for that."
After the trial, unsealed documents in the federal court included a psychiatrist's discovery that Roof showed signs of social anxiety, schizoid personality and possible autism spectrum disorders.
Prosecutors told the jury that Roof entered the church and sat down with the Bible study group for about 45 minutes, then opened fire during the final prayer, when everyone's eyes were closed.
The jury condemned the roof on 33 federal charges, including hate crimes.
The massacre prompted South Carolina to remove the Confederate flag from its state headquarters for the first time in more than half a century. Roof posed with the flag in the photos.
The dead included Rev. Clementa Pinckney, church pastor and state senator; an athletic trainer; the church sexton; a librarian; and an aspiring poet.