Will Dylann Roof be executed? Charleston church shooter wants death penalty dropped, claims 'mental illness'

Roof didn't fight for his life nor he explained his actions, saying only that 'anyone who hates anything in their mind has a good reason for it'


                            Will Dylann Roof be executed? Charleston church shooter wants death penalty dropped, claims 'mental illness'
Oral arguments in the case of Dylann Roof are scheduled for May 25, 2021 (Getty Images)

COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA: Dylann Storm Roof, who is on federal death row for the racist killing of nine members of a Black South Carolina congregation, is scheduled to argue later this week that his conviction and death sentence should be overturned due to his “mental illness." Arguments in the case of Roof are scheduled to take place on Tuesday, May 25, before a panel of three judges of the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Richmond, Virginia.

In 2017, Roof made headlines when he became the first person in the country to get a death sentence for a federal hate crime. Authorities have stated that Roof opened fire during a 2015 Bible study session at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, raining down dozens of bullets on those assembled. At that time, Roof was 21 years old.

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Roof's attorneys have argued that an appellate court should vacate his convictions and death sentence, or remand his case to court for a "proper competency evaluation." "The federal trial that resulted in his death-sentence departed so far from the standard required when the government seeks the ultimate price that it cannot be affirmed," they wrote, claiming that their client's mental illness prevented him from serving as his own attorney during a portion of the trial and also being sent to federal death row. US District Judge Richard Gergel held two competency hearings for Roof: one before the start of his trial, and one before its sentencing phase, to determine if Roof could act as his own lawyer for that portion of the trial. 

His appellate team has stated that the court found Roof competent, even though "every defense expert agreed Roof suffered a delusional belief he would be rescued by the victors of a race-war, which prevented him from understanding the threat of execution was real."

While Roof represented himself for sentencing, he successfully prevented jurors from hearing mitigating evidence about his mental health, "under the delusion," his attorneys wrote, that "he would be rescued from prison by white-nationalists - but only, bizarrely, if he kept his mental-impairments out of the public record." In that part of the trial, the Roof didn't fight for his life nor he explained his actions, saying only that "anyone who hates anything in their mind has a good reason for it." This resulted in "a complete breakdown" of any possible defense, with jurors being "left in the dark" about any details from Roof's past detailing his mental health.

Following his federal trial, Roof had nine consecutive life sentences on him after he was found guilty in 2017 to state murder charges.

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