AFRICANGLOBE – Dylann Roof, the Charleston shooter currently standing trial for the murder of nine Black parishioners has been ordered to undergo evaluation to ascertain his mental fitness.
A federal judge on Tuesday said he had ordered an evaluation into whether accused Charleston shooter; Dylann Roof was competent to stand trial for the fatal shootings of nine people at a historic Black church in Charleston, South Carolina, last year.
U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel also postponed jury selection from this week until Nov. 21 to allow time for the competency issue to be settled.
“The Court is mindful that this delay in jury selection may be disappointing to some, but it is the Court’s duty to conduct a fair trial and follow procedures which protect the legal rights of the defendant,” Gergel said in a one-page order.
Gergel said he would rule on the competency of the 22-year-old Roof to stand trial by Nov. 18, following a hearing on the matter.
Roof’s lead defense attorney, David Bruck, declined to comment in an email. Federal prosecutors and a lawyer for Roof’s family could not immediately be reached.
Federal prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. Roof has offered to plead guilty if that potential punishment was dropped, court filings show.
He also faces the death sentence in a state murder trial scheduled for next year.
A defense motion unsealed Friday mentions U.S. Judge Richard Gergel’s finding that it’s reasonable to believe Roof “may presently be suffering from a mental disease or defect,” Daily News states. The motion says the judge’s finding doesn’t alter Roof’s constitutional rights.
Much of the unsealed defense motion is redacted, including several lines preceding the reference to Gergel’s “reasonable cause” finding.
If the Charleston shooter is declared incompetent, he should be transferred to a Bureau of Prisons hospital for further evaluation and treatment “aimed at restoring him to competence,” the motion reads. Roof’s attorneys want the doctor’s report disclosed to them first.
They also want Wednesday’s hearing to be closed and any disputes about the competency finding to be sealed.
The prosecution opposes both requests, saying the “victims should not be held in the dark.” Prosecutors have asked that Wednesday’s hearing be open to the public.
“Particularly in light of the strong interests of the victims to be present for the hearing, there is no overriding interest in closing the hearing,” reads the document signed by acting U.S. Attorney Beth Drake.
About 70 motions, documents and orders have been filed in the case since September. The overwhelming majority have been sealed from public view.
Roof is charged with hate crimes, obstruction of religion and other counts in the killings at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Authorities said he sat with 12 people in a prayer meeting for nearly an hour before firing dozens of times, killing nine and leaving three unharmed so they could tell the world the shootings were because he hated Black people.
Gergel’s order may delay opening statements until 2017. The judge plans to question the 500 prospective jurors in groups of 10, twice a day, until he qualifies 70 for lawyers to choose from. That process is expected to take several weeks.
Roof’s lawyers have said previously that he would plead guilty to the charges in federal court if prosecutors would agree not to seek the death penalty.
State prosecutors also plan a death penalty trial for Roof on nine counts of murder after the federal trial is finished.
The twist and turns; and delays in the Charleston shooter’s murder case is clear prove that judges might want to throw this case out of the window as it has usually been in similar circumstances. The institutional racism which has eaten deep into the American judicial system is really a cause for alarm. No wonder Black people in America never get justice. All evidence points to the fact that Roof is actually guilty of the offense; yet, the justice system wants to finds dubious means to clear him off the charges.
After all this while in custody, should it take his lawyers to state that he might not be mentally sound to stand trial? Won’t that be an obvious fact right from the onset? Now they want to protect a “mentally ill” culprit. But the police kill mentally ill Black people who have called for their help and walk away free. An assumed “mentally incompetent” white guy kills nine innocent Black people and the law wants to protect him? Is this the kind of America we want to pass on to posterity? It is important we become the agents of change we desire to see. We have to persistently and jointly stand for equality and justice in this country.
By: Aaron Lewis