The Supreme Court rejected Dylann Roof’s appeal of his death sentence and conviction on Tuesday. Roof was convicted in 2016 of killing nine when he opened fire on the black congregation of Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, during a Bible study at a racially motivated attack.
He had a roof asked the court to decide how to handle disagreements about evidence related to mental illness between defendants and their attorneys; The justices had no comment Tuesday in rejecting the appeal.
When a defendant who has been found competent to stand trial and his attorneys “disagree over whether to introduce mitigating circumstances that portray him as mentally ill, who has the final say?” Roof’s appellate team wrote in its petition.
The judges’ review “is needed to resolve a deep divide among lower courts over who — client or attorney — will decide whether to present mitigating evidence in a death penalty hearing.”
Roof’s self-representation and desire to block any evidence that could potentially portray him as mentally ill — even if it would have helped him avoid the death penalty — was a constant part of his case.
During the sentencing phase of his death penalty trial, Roof fired his legal team and chose to represent himself. That move, his appeals lawyers wrote, successfully prevented jurors from hearing evidence about his mental health, “under the delusion” that “white nationalists would save him from prison — but only, strangely, if he maintained his mental disabilities out of public record”.
Roof made his decision, his team argued in the petition, “after the district court told him that counsel could introduce evidence that portrayed him as mentally ill for his plea.”
But there is a disconnect, his lawyers argued, between how such cases are handled in the 4th Circuit versus other jurisdictions, where “the vast majority of state and federal courts hold otherwise, leaving this deeply personal choice to a defendant.”
In other words, they argued, “Had Roof been tried in any of these majority jurisdictions, he would not have been compelled to represent himself at his capital trial to prevent his own attorneys from introducing evidence he abhorred.”
Last year the Ministry of Justice awarded an $88 million settlement for multiple lawsuits filed by the families of Roof’s victims, who argued that a prior felony drug arrest should have prevented him from purchasing the gun used in the massacre.
In 2017, Roof attempted to fire two lawyers — an Indian and a Jew — on the basis of their race and religion. In a handwritten request filed with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, Roof wrote that his attorneys’ pasts were “an obstacle to effective communication.”
“Because of my political views, which are decidedly religious, it will be impossible for me to trust two lawyers who are my political and biological enemies,” the note read. The federal court at the time rejected the request.
An appeals panel had previously upheld his conviction and death sentence.
Roof, 28, is on federal death row at a maximum-security prison in Terre Haute, Indiana. He can still make other appeals. Roof is the first person ordered to be executed for a federal hate crime