Dylann Roof will not call witnesses as jury mulls death penalty

Maxine SotoDec 29, 2016

Dylan Roof, who opened fire at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on 17 June 2015 in a racially-motivated attack, intends to represent himself during the punishment phase of the trial in which he could be sentenced to life in prison, or face the death penalty. Those in the courtroom shouldn't expect an elaborate production on his part.

Roof, 22, told federal Judge Richard Gergel on Wednesday morning he plans to represent himself and will make an opening statement during the sentencing portion that is scheduled to begin Tuesday. "I think that highlights my advice to you that you aren't being served by being your own counsel", the Associated Press reported.

Dylann Roof
Dylann Roof

Appearing in court for the first time since he was convicted on December 15 of carrying out the massacre at the Emanuel AME Church in downtown Charleston on the night of June 17, 2015, Dylann Roof reiterated his desire to act has his own attorney in the penalty phase of the trial. He was convicted of hate crimes, obstructing religion and firearms violations.

Roof's legal team has indicated in earlier court filings he was reluctant to introduce testimony about his mental health and family history.

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During Wednesday's hearing, prosecutors agreed to stipulate to mitigating factors including that Roof has no criminal conviction history and that he offered to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence. He took his normal place at the defense table, ceding the lead chair to his former lead attorney, noted capital defense lawyer David Bruck.

In court, Gergel told Roof to speak with his family before his trial, particularly his grandfather, who is a lawyer, AP says.

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Prosecutors are expected to call more than 30 witnesses to testify during the sentencing hearing.

Gergel is still deciding whether to unseal video linked to Roof's mental competency hearing because the defendant still faces a state trial over the same crime. He also posted a racist manifesto online.

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