Dylann Roof’s lawyers argue ‘incompetency’ while working to overturn death sentence

Local News

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Attorneys for the Charleston church shooter are trying to get his death sentence overturned. Defense attorneys argue Dylann Roof was not competent to represent himself in his trial. Those on the other side, representing the Department of Justice (DOJ), said the conviction in place should stand.

Before Roof stood trial in 2016, he appeared at two competency hearings. In both, a judge found him to be competent for trial. Now, his attorneys say 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.

Attorneys with the Department of Justice said during Tuesday’s arguments that Roof was​ able to stand trial based on previous comments from the man himself.

“Roof confirmed that he understood there was a high likelihood that he would be sentenced to death,” said Ann O’Connell Adams, an attorney for the DOJ.

One of the three judges in today’s proceedings also recalled and commented on Roof’s remarks from five years ago saying he “absolutely understands what’s going on in the courtroom.”

“Is having despicable opinions and forecasts the same things as incompetency in the legal sense to stand trial to be able to assist in his own defense?” asked a judge.

In response to this question, Mirchandani stuck to her argument, that Roof was incompetent and mentally ill.

“It is not hatred, it is not his opinions…It’s a delusion,” said Mirchandani.

Justice Department attorneys say they believe the evidence will find Roof was fit to stand trial.

“We believe that no error occurred with respect to his competency, his self-representation, or his penalty proceeding that would warrant reversal of either his convictions or his death sentence.”

It’s expected to take several weeks until a ruling is handed down by the judges presiding over the hearing.

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