A federal appea|s court has upheld the conv!ction and sentence of Dylann Roof, who m*rdered nine members of a black South Carolina church congregation in 2015.
A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appea|s affirmed Roof’s conv!ction and sentence in the sho0tings at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.
In his appea|, Roof’s attorneys argued that he was wrongly allowed to represent himself during sentencing, a critical phase of his trial.
Roof, who was 21 at the time, opened fire during the closing prayer of a Bible study at the church, firing dozens of bu|lets at the congregation.
DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Myrah Thompson, Ethel Lance, Susie Jackson, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Daniel Simmons, Clementa Pinckney and Cynthia Hurd were all ki|led by Roof on June 17, 2015.
DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Myrah Thompson, Ethel Lance, Susie Jackson, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Daniel Simmons, Clementa Pinckney and Cynthia Hurd were all ki|led by Roof on June 17, 2015
Polly Sheppard, 72, said Roof, who is now 27, spared her so she could ‘tell the story’. She and Felicia Sanders, another survivor, testified against him during the trial.
In 2017, Roof became the first person in the U.S. sentenced to de*th for a federal hate cr!me.
A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appea|s affirmed Roof’s conv!ction and sentence in the sh0otings at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston
In 2021, Roof and his legal team began making his appe|late argument that his conv!ction and de*th sentence should be overturned.
In a lengthy brief, Roof’s attorneys argue that an appe|late court should vacate Roof’s conv!ctions and de*th sentence, or remand his case to court for a ‘proper competency evaluation.’
‘The federal trial that resulted in his de*th sentence departed so far from the standard required when the government seeks the ultimate price that it cannot be affirmed,’ they wrote, arguing that their client’s mental illness should have prevented him from serving as his own attorney during a portion of the trial, and also being sent to federal de*th row.
Roof successfully prevented jurors from hearing evidence about his mental health, ‘under the delusion,’ his attorneys argued, that ‘he would be rescued from prison by white nationalists – but only, bizarrely, if he kept his mental impairments out of the public record.’
Roof’s lawyers said his conv!ctions and de*th sentence should be vacated or his case should be sent back to court for a ‘proper competency evaluation.’
U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel held two competency hearings for Roof: one before the start of his trial, and one before its sentencing phase, to determine if Roof could act as his own attorney for that portion of the trial.
In that part of the trial, the self-avowed white supremacist neither fought for his life nor explained his actions, saying only that ‘anyone who hates anything in their mind has a good reason for it.’
This, his attorneys wrote, resulted in ‘a complete breakdown’ of any possible defense, with jurors being ‘left in the dark’ about any details from Roof’s past that could have possibly been used to mitigate the government’s ‘inflammatory case for de*th.’
The 4th Circuit found that the trial judge did not commit an error when he found Roof was competent to stand trial and issued a scathing rebuke of Roof’s cr!mes.
The judges wrote: ‘Dylann Roof m*rdered African Americans at their church, during their Bible-study and worship. They had welcomed him. He s|aughtered them.
‘He did so with the express intent of terr0rizing not just his immediate v!ctims at the historically important Mother Emanuel Church, but as many similar people as would hear of the mass m*rder,’ the panel wrote in its ruling.
Dylann Roof, who is on federal de*th row for the s|ayings of nine members of a black South Carolina congregation, had argued his conv!ction and de*th sentence should be overturned. He is pictured at a hearing in 2015
Law enforcement officials are pictured outsider the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church after the mass sho0ting at the church in June 2015
People pay their respects in front of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in June 2015
‘No cold record or careful parsing of statutes and precedents can capture the full horror of what Roof did. His cr!mes qualify him for the har$hest penalty that a just society can impose.’
All of the judges in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appea|s, which covers South Carolina, recused themselves from hearing Roof´s appea|; one of their own, Judge Jay Richardson, prosecuted Roof´s case as an assistant U.S. Attorney. The panel that heard arguments in May and issued the ruling on Wednesday was comprised of judges from several other appellate circuits.
A jury took just two hours to conv!ct him of 33 federal cr!mes after a week-long trial in December 2016 in which he was described as a su!cidal loner who viewed the nine black parishioners he k!lled as ‘animals’.
After he was given nine consecutive life sentences, Solicitor Scarlett Wilson – who had also been pursuing the de*th penalty – called the deal ‘an insurance policy for the federal conv!ction,’ ensuring that Roof would spend the rest of his life in pr!son, should the federal sentence not stand.
Wilson also said that she felt more confident a federal de *th sentence would be carried out under the newly minted Trump administration than it would have been under a Dem0cratic one.
At the time, there was anticipation that then-President Donald Trump might swiftly resume federal executions, following cessation of the practice under several several previous administrations.
The moment police capture and ar*est Dylann Roof
Trump´s decision to reinstate federal executions didn´t come until 2020, however, when his Justice Department ended a 17-year hiatus, going on to oversee a total of 13 federal executions.
Due to his remaining appea|s, Roof´s case was not eligible for execution at that time.
Although President Joe Biden – who as a candidate said he´d work to end federal executions – hasn´t spoken publicly about capital punishment in office, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in March that he continues to have ‘grave concerns’ about it.
The president could instruct his Justice Department not to carry out executions during his presidency.
Roof could now file what´s known as a 2255 appea|, or a request that the trial court review the constitutionality of his conv!ction and sentence.
He could also petition the U.S. Supreme Court or seek a presidential pardon.