Alleged Charleston AME Church Killer to Be His Own Lawyer

Dylann Roof appears via video before a judge in Charleston, S.C., on Friday, June 19, 2015. The 21-year-old accused of killing nine people inside a black church in Charleston made his first court appearance, with the relatives of all the victims making tearful statements. (Centralized Bond Hearing Court, of Charleston, S.C. via AP)

Jury selection began today in the trial of Dylann Storm Roof

By Frederick H. Lowe

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Mark Gergel ruled on Monday (today) that Dylann Storm Roof, a white supremacist who is charged with murdering nine black parishioners during Bible study last year in a Charleston, S.C., church, can act as his own lawyer in a case that he faces the death penalty.

Dylann Roof

Dylann Storm Roof

Judge Gergel issued a verbal order in open court after Roof filed a motion Sunday night asking if could act as his own counsel  in the trial involving the June 17, 2015, massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal, a historic black church in downtown Charleston.

Other lawyers will sit with Roof at the defense table, but he will “call the shots,” said Charles W. Hall, a member of the public affairs office of the Administrative Office of the Courts in Washington D.C., told NorthStar News

Judge Gergel allowed Roof to represent himself after ruling on Friday that he was mentally competent to stand trial.

“The court conducted a competency hearing on November 21-22, 2016, and received testimony and voluminous documents and other information related to the issue of competency. They included the live testimony of Dr. James C. Ballenger, a court-appointed examiner, and four other witnesses and the testimony by sworn affidavits of three additional persons,” Judge Gergel wrote.

Judge Gergel then issued his ruling. “After carefully considering the record before the court, the relevant legal standard, and the arguments of counsel, the court now finds and concludes that the defendant is competent to stand trial.”

495 Potential Jurors

Jury selection also began today, Hall said. There are 495 potential jurors will go through voir dire. The pool will be reduced to 70. From the 70, prosecutors and defense will select 12 jurors and six alternates, Hall said.

Federal prosecutors have charged Roof with the Hate Crimes Act Resulting in Death, the Hate Crimes Act Involving an Attempt to Kill, Obstruction of Exercise of Religion Resulting in Death, Obstruction of Exercise of Religion Involving  an Attempt to Kill and Use of a Dangerous Weapon and Use of a Firearm to Commit Murder During  and in Relation to a Crime of Violence, according to the 15-page indictment. Roof has plead not guilty.

In addition, he faces state murder charges bought by South Carolina, which also is seeking the death penalty. That trial is scheduled to begin in January.

Roof sat for an hour with Emanuel parishioners before firing his gun, a Glock .45-caliber pistol.

Roof, 22, said he killed the churchgoers to incite a race war. The pistol was loaded with eight magazines of hollow-point bullets.

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