A federal judge ruled that Dylann Roof is competent to face the penalty for the slaughter of nine African-American parishioners at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C.
U.S. District Court Judge Richard Gergel ruled that the 22-year-old is fit to stand trial before a jury, who will then decide whether he will face a lifetime in prison or lethal injection, which is the approved method of execution by the state.
The judge based his ruling on the assessment by Dr. James Ballenger, Charleston forensic psychiatrist, who evaluated Roof during the New Year weekend. Ballenger, also the former head of the Medical University of South Carolina’s Department of Psychiatry, concluded that the convicted killer is “competent to stand trial and to self-represent.”
According to CBS News, the judge issued the ruling following a seven-hour hearing on Monday, which was closed to the public.
The decision to hold the trial behind closed doors has created an interesting sidebar in an already explosive case. A newspaper and several other media entities have questioned the judge’s decision to bar them from covering the case.
But the judge held firm, adding that all the reports and opinions might serve to prejudice the jury.
Dylann Roof will now present his case before the same jury that found him guilty of 33 charges for the killing of parishioners holding a bible study in 2015.
“If this case didn’t warrant the death penalty, then I wouldn’t know what case would have,” said Sharon Risher, who lost her mother, Ethel Lance, to the massacre.
The other victims were Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd, Susie Jackson, Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Clementa C. Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, and Myra Thompson — all died instantly. Another victim, Daniel Simmons, passed away at the hospital.
The white supremacist was apparently angered by all the resentment created by the murder of Trayvon Martin. On his website, as reported by a CNN profile of the killer, revealed the mindset of the defendant when he barged into the historic Charleston district to mow down the victims.
“I have no choice,” Roof wrote.
“I am not in the position to, alone, go into the ghetto and fight. I chose Charleston because it is most historic city in my state, and at one time had the highest ratio of blacks to Whites in the country. We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the internet. Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me.”
The suspect chose to represent himself in the hearing wherein he asked the judge for an extra day in order to make his case. He is expected to make the opening and closing statements.
While his lawyers have been preparing to present mental health as a mitigating circumstance, the defendant has turned that strategy on its head when he dismissed that reasoning.
“I, Dylann Roof, withdraw the notice to present mental health mitigation through expert testimony,” he stated through a note delivered to the U.S. marshal. “I will not be calling mental health experts or presenting mental health evidence.”
— Brent Staples (@BrentNYT) January 2, 2017
David Bruck, Roof’s legal adviser, questioned this decision in that it may show that he is unable to defend himself when a possible death penalty sentence is given. “At a minimum, it suggests that he may lack the mental capacity to assume the role of his own lawyer,” he said in a report on the Post and Courier.
Dylann Roof’s case mirrors that of another white supremacist, Frazier Glenn Cross, who served as his own lawyer after he was convicted for the murders at a Jewish community center in Kansas City in 2014. He was sentenced to death.
[Featured Image by Pool/Getty Images]