RICHMOND, Virginia — A federal appeals court upholds Dylann Roof’s conviction and sentence for the racist 2015 slayings of nine members of a black South Carolina congregation.
A three-judge panel of the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond affirms Roof’s conviction and sentence in the shootings at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.
In 2017, Roof became the first person in the US sentenced to death for a federal hate crime. Authorities have said that Roof opened fire during the closing prayer of a Bible study at the church, raining down dozens of bullets on those assembled. He was 21 at the time.
In his appeal, Roof’s attorneys argued that he was wrongly allowed to represent himself during sentencing, a critical phase of his trial. Roof successfully prevented jurors from hearing evidence about his mental health, “under the delusion,” his attorneys argued, that “he would be rescued from prison by white-nationalists — but only, bizarrely, if he kept his mental impairments out of the public record.”
Roof’s lawyers said that his convictions and death sentence should be vacated or his case should be sent back to court for a “proper competency evaluation.”
The 4th Circuit finds that the trial judge didn’t commit an error when he found Roof competent to stand trial and issued a scathing rebuke of Roof’s crimes.
“Dylann Roof murdered African Americans at their church, during their Bible study and worship. They had welcomed him. He slaughtered them. He did so with the express intent of terrorizing not just his immediate victims at the historically important Mother Emanuel Church, but as many similar people as would hear of the mass murder,” the panel writes in is ruling.
“No cold record or careful parsing of statutes and precedents can capture the full horror of what Roof did. His crimes qualify him for the harshest penalty that a just society can impose,” the judges write.