Dylann Roof, the man convicted of the racist slayings of nine Black South Carolina congregation members, is appealing his conviction and death sentence, saying they should be overturned.
According to the Associated Press, oral arguments in the appellate case are scheduled for Tuesday (May 25) before a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Richmond, Va.
Roof became the first person in the United States sentenced to death for a federal hate crime in 2017. In 2015, he was arrested for opening fire during the closing prayer of a Bible study session at Charleston’s Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church. He was 21 at the time.
Roof’s attorneys argued in a brief that an appellate court should vacate his convictions and death sentence or remand his case to court for a “proper competency evaluation.”
“The federal trial that resulted in his death-sentence departed so far from the standard required when the government seeks the ultimate price that it cannot be affirmed,” they wrote, arguing that his self-representation in court was a result of mental illness, which prevented him from hiring effective counsel.
Both prior to his trial and once before his sentencing phase, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel held competency hearings to determine if Roof could act as his own attorney.
During sentencing, according to his appellate counsel, Roof successfully prevented jurors from hearing mitigating evidence about his mental health, “under the delusion he would be rescued from prison by white-nationalists — but only, bizarrely, if he kept his mental-impairments out of the public record.”
For the killings of the nine people at Mother Emanuel A.M.E., Roof was given nine consecutive life sentences after pleading guilty in 2017 to state murder charges following his federal trial.