Emanuel AME Church Shooter Dylann Roof Begins Appeal Process to Overturn Conviction and Death Sentence

Lawyers for the White nationalist who killed nine people at a historically Black church in Charleston, South Carolina, began making their case Tuesday that his conviction and death sentence can’t stand because he was too “disconnected from reality” to represent himself.

That’s the chief contention laid out in a sprawling 321-page motion filed last year in the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals, attacking numerous elements of the federal trial and conviction stemming from the June 17, 2015, massacre.

“When Dylann Roof represented himself at his capital trial, he was a 22-year-old, ninth-grade dropout diagnosed with schizophrenia-spectrum disorder, autism, anxiety, and depression, who believed his sentence didn’t matter because white nationalists would free him from prison after an impending race war,” the filing says.

Defense: Roof masked mental illness

Roof was sentenced to death after jurors returned guilty verdicts on 33 federal charges. Following his federal conviction, Roof pleaded guilty in April 2017 to state murder and attempted murder charges and received nine consecutive life sentences and three consecutive 30-year sentences on those counts.

Oral arguments, which began Tuesday morning in federal court in Richmond, Virginia, kicked off with the defense’s case that the trial court ignored numerous experts and failed to read and consider detailed reports regarding Roof’s competency to stand trial. Roof masked his mental illness because he felt it might interfere with his rescue from prison, a defense attorney told the court.

Furthermore, during sentencing, jurors were told that Roof posed a future danger because he could incite other people to violence via the prison mail, but defense attorney Alexandra Yates said prisons have security measures to prevent such communications. Yet when the jury asked the court if this was relevant, the judge declined to answer, over the defense team’s objection, and told jurors to use their common sense, presenting a “misleading, indeed false, impression that Mr. Roof could not be safely confined.”

The presentations could last up to three hours. Roof’s attorneys’ federal filing has a table of contents that alone spans 13 pages.

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SOURCE: CNN, Eliott C. McLaughlin

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