Dylann Roof, the alleged gunman in a bloody South Carolina church massacre which left nine black churchgoers dead, will represent himself in a federal trial set to begin in a matter of days.
U.S. District Court Judge Richard Gergel granted Roof’s shocking motion to represent himself Monday. The move is especially risky for Roof as prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty if he is convicted. With such high stakes, proceeding without legal counsel is an astonishing, and a dangerous move for the 22-year old. The judge warned Roof this course of action is “strategically unwise.”
Roof will have the prerogative to give an opening statement, cross examine witnesses called by the prosecution, and call witnesses in his own defense.
Roof faces 33 federal charges: nine counts of violating the Hate Crime Act resulting in death; three counts of violating the Hate Crime Act involving an attempt to kill; nine counts of obstruction of exercise of religion resulting in death; three counts of obstruction of exercise of religion involving an attempt to kill and use of a dangerous weapon; nine counts of use of a firearm to commit murder during and in relation to a crime of violence.
Gergel ruled that Roof was competent to stand trial last Friday. Roof’s lawyers halted jury selection earlier this month, claiming their client lacked the mentally fitness to participate in his own defense. They urged the judge to postpone the trial until such time that medical and psychiatric experts advised that he was competent enough to stand trial. (RELATED: Dylann Roof Competent To Stand Trial, Judge Rules)
A psychiatric expert evaluated Roof earlier this month, and submitted an evaluation to the court. He also reviewed several sworn states concerning Roof’s mental state.
Jury selection resumed Monday morning. The trial will begin once the jury is seated.
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