Dylann Roof, the white supremacist responsible for the Charlton church massacre in 2015, is appealing his federal sentence of death. Roof was convicted of killing nine Americans all of whom were attending Sunday service and all of whom were black. One of his victims was the pastor of a church and a state senator.
According to attorneys representing Roof, the trial contained 20 critical issues that they say tainted the sentencing portion of the trial. The biggest argument is that the U.S. District Judge who oversaw Roof’s case should have never allowed him to represent himself during the penalty phase.
Roof was 22 years old at the time and dropped out of high school in the ninth grade. Roof maintained that whatever sentence he received wouldn’t matter because once a race war had ensued and the whites presumably won, they would free him from prison and laud him as a hero.
Does Dylann Roof Suffer From Mental Illness?
Is Roof a cold-blooded calculating killer whose heart is filled with hate? Or is he a young man who suffers from a combination of psychiatric diagnoses that couldn’t appreciate the full gravity of his actions? If the latter is true, it may not absolve him of his crimes, but it would provide enough mitigating circumstances for the court to overturn a sentence of death.
Roof’s appellate lawyers maintain that he suffers from a schizophrenia-spectrum disorder, autism, anxiety, and depression. They also say that Roof fired his defense attorneys when they tried to present evidence of his mental illness in court.
In fact, this type of arrogance is not necessarily uncommon. Several defendants facing death penalty charges would rather they be remembered as political activists motivated by strong beliefs that mentally ill people didn’t know what they were doing. Roof falls into that category having released a manifesto concerning his views on white supremacy.
Because of this, prosecutors were able to argue before the jury that Roof was acting on his political beliefs when he murdered nine people in their church. No evidence of mental illness was ever presented before the jury.
Roof confessed to all the crimes upon being apprehended by federal authorities. He told federal agents that he hoped to “bring back segregation” or “start a race war”. Roof directly instructed jurors to forget anything they heard from his lawyers concerning his mental illness. He told them that he believed he had to do it and if given the opportunity, he would do it again.
Lastly, there is some question as to whether or not the federal court should have been allowed to hear the trial. Capital charges were brought against Roof by South Carolina, but the federal courts took over jurisdiction of the trial.
If successful, Roof’s sentence could be commuted to life.
Talk to a West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney
If you’re charged with a serious crime, then you need a legal team that understands how the process works and can protect you from overzealous prosecutors, speculative prosecution, and shoddy police work. Talk to the West Palm Beach criminal attorneys at The Skier Law Firm, P.A. today for more information.