Dylann Roof, the young man accused of committing mass murder at a Charleston church in 2015, is to offer no defense in the sentencing portion of his trial, a shocking decision that comes after Roof pledged to represent himself.
Roof elected to represent himself at the beginning of the trial, seemingly angry that his defense attorneys wanted to focus on his mental state to defend him from the death penalty. Roof’s attorneys have been allowed to remain in the courtroom for portions of his trial – including jury selection – but he has represented himself for the entirety of the actual trial.
But “representing himself” is a loose term to use here as so far, Roof has offered no real defense of himself.
On Wednesday, Roof told federal judge Richard Gergel that he would not be offering any witnesses or evidence in his defense. Gergel told Roof that he advised against the man’s decision to offer no evidence and represent himself, but said that he would continue to allow the man to provide a defense or reappoint his attorneys until the penalty phase of the trial begins.
At that point, Roof’s attorneys could possibly make the argument that he is not mentally competent enough to be given the death penalty, but because Roof seems so adamant to prevent that outcome, it is unlikely.
Roof was found guilty on December 15 of 22 charges of hate crimes resulting in death, as well as the obstruction of religion and firearm violations.
In June 2015, Roof took a racist tour of plantation memorials in nearby states before entering a black church in Charleston and opening fire, killing 9.
During the earlier parts of the trial, Roof explained that he attacked the church because he wanted to do something about what he perceived were racial injustices. He said that he was unable to kill drug dealers, so he targeted a black church instead.
Before opening fire, Roof sat in on a sermon at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church where church members accepted his presence before being slaughtered.
During Roof’s sentencing, he may be given the death penalty.