CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) — A federal judge Monday grants a motion to allow accused Emanuel AME Church shooter to represent himself in trial.
Wearing a gray-and-blue striped prison outfit Monday morning, 22-year-old Dylann Roof told Judge Richard Gergel he understood his attorneys have skills and experience he may not have, but he wanted to self-represent as his attorneys serve as stand-by counsel.
Roof took the lead chair at the defense table as jury selection for the federal death penalty trial began. The suspect currently pleads not guilty on charges including hate crimes, the shooting deaths of nine and the attempted murder of three.
Jury selection was scheduled to begin on Nov. 7, but was suspended after Roof’s lawyers moved to have the suspect analyzed by a doctor who could determine whether or not he was suffering a “mental disease or defect” that may make him unable to understand what was going on in court.
Court-appointed psychiatrist Dr. James Ballenger reported on Roof’s competency in a two-day hearing last week. Proceedings happened away from the public and the media, but documents filed on Friday declared that the court found Roof competent to stand trial.
According to a court order, Judge Richard Gergel believes Roof understands the nature of the court proceedings and is able to consult with his attorneys and assist in preparing his defense.
“I must admit I’m not terribly surprised,” said Charleston School of Law Professor Miller Shealy. “To be declared incompetent to stand trial is difficult. One has to be quite mentally ill, one has to have some serious problem.”
With the competency evaluation complete, the process of whittling down 512 people to a jury of 12 and six alternates resumed Monday at 9 a.m.
The process may continue into the new year.