Shooter In Charleston Massacre Challenges Constitutionality Of The Death Penalty

REUTERS/Jason Miczek

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Kevin Daley Supreme Court correspondent
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Lawyers filed a motion challenging the constitutionality of the federal death penalty Monday.

The challenge comes admist the ongoing trial of Dylann Roof, the man who murdered nine African Americans during a Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.  Federal prosecutors previously announced they will seek the death penalty if Roof is convicted of the killings. (RELATED: Prosecutors To Seek Death Penalty For Dylann Roof)

“[T]his Court should rule that the federal death penalty constitutes a legally prohibited, arbitrary, cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by both the Fifth and Eighth Amendments,” Roof’s lawyers wrote.

Roof’s lawyers are forthright about the herculean feats necessary to prevail. Both the U.S. Supreme Court and the Fourth U.S. Court of Appeals (the federal appeals court setting precedent for federal district courts in South Carolina) have affirmed the constitutional legitimacy of the death penalty. The Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from a death row inmate, John Wayne Connor, just last month.

“The defense acknowledges that certain of these challenges are foreclosed by Supreme Court or Fourth Circuit precedent, but we wish to preserve them for further review by those courts in light of developing law, including those changes that reflect ‘the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society,'” the challenge reads.

Roof previously hoped to plead out the case by accepting multiple life sentences without the possibility of parole. Prosecutors rejected the proposal. Charleston County Solicitor Scarlett Wilson has already announced she will also seek the death penalty.

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