Dylann Roof to jury: “There’s nothing wrong with me psychologically.”
“I’m not going to lie to you,” Dylann Roof told the jury on the first day of his sentencing trial in Charleston, South Carolina, on Wednesday. “There’s nothing wrong with me psychologically.”
The self-avowed white supremacist was found guilty last month of all 33 charges relating to the June 2015 massacre of nine black worshippers at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. The same jury must now consider whether Roof, 22, should face the death penalty. U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel told the jury that Roof had offered to plead guilty in exchange for a sentence of life without parole.
Acting as his own lawyer, Roof made his opening statements just moments after prosecutor Nathan S. Williams read aloud from a journal that officials confiscated from Roof’s jail cell in 2015. “I would like to make it crystal clear I do not regret what I did,” Williams read. “I am not sorry. I have not shed a tear for the innocent people I killed. I do feel sorry for the innocent white children forced to live in this sick country.”
“I have shed a tear of pity for myself,” Williams continued, reading aloud from Roof’s journal. “I feel pity about what I had to do in the first place.”
On Monday, Judge Gergel held a second hearing to determine Roof’s mental competency to act as his own lawyer (the first hearing was held prior to jury selection in November). Gergel concluded that Roof was competent enough to stand trial both times, but he restricted Roof’s movement’s in the courtroom during this phase.
According to reporters in the courthouse Wednesday, Roof appeared to show little remorse as he addressed the jury in his opening statements and wanted to stress that his actions were not driven by an underlying psychological disorder.
“It isn’t because I have a mental illness that I don’t want you to know about,” Roof said. “I’m not trying to keep a secret… My lawyers forced me to go through two competency hearings.” Roof spoke for three minutes in total. He implored the jury to forget “anything that my lawyer said in the guilt phase of the trial.”
As VICE News reported previously, Roof has regularly rejected his lawyers’ efforts to portray him as mentally unstable, which would have potentially been his best defense against the death penalty. His lawyer David Bruck during the guilt phase of the trial last month tried to characterize Roof as a troubled young man who had sought comfort in radical corners of the Internet. Prosecutors, on the other hand, painted him as a cold-blooded killer, consumed by hatred, and who spent months planning his attack.
On Dec. 16, Roof wrote a letter to Gergel stressing that he did not plan to call mental health experts to the stand or present evidence indicating he had mental health issues. In a journal entry from 2015, Roof wrote that he was “morally opposed” to the practice of psychology, calling it a “Jewish invention” that “tells people they have problems when they don’t.”
— Glenn Smith (@glennsmith5) January 4, 2017