Dylann Roof death penalty upheld by U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals

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Dylann Storm Roof

FILE – In this June 18, 2015, file photo, Charleston, S.C., shooting suspect Dylann Storm Roof is escorted from the Cleveland County Courthouse in Shelby, N.C. A federal appeals court has reinstated a lawsuit over a faulty background check that allowed Roof to buy the gun he used to kill nine people in a racist attack at a South Carolina church. A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday, Aug. 30, 2019, reversed a lower court judge who threw out the lawsuit brought by survivors and relatives of people killed in the 2015 massacre at Charleston’s AME Emanuel Church. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals says a previous death sentence against Charleston Church Shooter, Dylann Roof, will not be overturned.

Roof filed his appeal back in 2017, a year after he was sentenced to death row in the killing of nine churchgoers during a Bible study massacre.

Roof, who was 21 at the time of the shooting, was convicted of 33 felony counts in the Emanuel AME Shooting on June 17, 2015.

But earlier this year, his attorneys argued that the sentence and conviction should be overturned because Roof was not competent enough to represent himself during the original trial.

However, before he stood trial in 2016, Roof appeared at two competency hearings. During both, a judge found him to be competent for trial. But his attorneys said reports detailing his apparent mental illness weren’t taken into consideration.

 Reports from doctors and psychologists created after the massacre outline Roof’s history with mental illness. During the time of the crime and the trial, Roof was reportedly suffering from delusions, paranoia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and more. In Tuesday’s arguments, his defense team states that the reports were not weighed as heavily as they should have been during Roof’s competency hearings.

“These are all part of what makes him incompetent. So, it’s not just a delusion, it’s not paranoia, it’s not OCD, it’s not all these things, it’s the full picture,” said Sapna Mirchandani, one of Roof’s attorneys.

Roof represented himself at his 2016 trial after he reportedly dismissed his team of attorneys because they wanted to use mental illness as a defense. Roof claimed he was not mentally ill, and he wanted to keep those comments out of the courtroom.

During an appeal hearing on Wednesday, the court affirmed the original sentence saying, “no cold record or careful parsing of statutes and precedents can capture the full horror of what Roof did. His crimes qualify him for the harshest penalty that a just society can impose.”

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals went on to say, “we have reached that conclusion not as a product of emotion but through a thorough analytical process, which we have endeavored to detail here. In this, we have followed the example of the trial judge, who managed this difficult case with skill and compassion for all concerned, including Roof himself. For the reasons given, we will affirm.”

“Dylann Roof murdered African Americans at their church, during their Bible-study and worship. They had welcomed him. He slaughtered them. He did so with the express intent of terrorizing not just his immediate victims at the historically important Mother Emanuel Church, but as many similar people as would hear of the mass murder. He used the internet to plan his attack and, using his crimes as a catalyst, intended to foment racial division and strife across America. He wanted the widest possible publicity for his atrocities, and, to that end, he purposefully left one person alive in the church “to tell the story.” (J.A. at 5017.) When apprehended, he frankly confessed, with barely a hint of remorse.”

U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals conclusion

No other court date is set.

Criminal Chief Nathan Williams with the U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina, who served as one of the lead prosecutors on the case, released a statement following the court’s affirmation, saying:

“The Mother Emmanuel AME Church massacre committed by the hate-filled murderer Dylan Roof is one of the worst events in not only South Carolina’s history but also our nation’s history. Our office is grateful for the decision of the court, a decision that ensures, as the Court stated, that ‘the harshest penalty a just society can impose’ is indeed imposed. Moreover, our office is grateful that justice will be served for the victims, survivors and their families.”

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