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Attorneys for Dylann Roof petitioned the federal appeals court on behalf of their client to have his convictions and death penalty vacated. They assert he should have been determined unfit to stand trial for the 2015 racist slayings of nine members of a Black congregation in Charleston, South Carolina. However, the federal appeals court upheld the conviction on Aug. 25, 2021.
The three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond unanimously rejected claims that Roof was incompetent to be tried for the shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church. Instead, they said the young white man’s legal record could not capture the absolute horror of his actions.
When he was sentenced, Roof became the first person in the United States to be condemned to death under a federal hate crime. It only took the jury about three hours to determine the self-professed white supremacist who never asked for forgiveness or mercy. Nor did he explain why he massacred nine people while they studied the Word of God beyond saying he felt like he “had to do it.”
In 2017, the racist murderer pleaded guilty to state murder charges and was given nine consecutive life sentences. The verdict left him to await execution in federal prison.
His lawyers argued that the trial judge should have never allowed Roof to defend himself. Judge Jay Richardson prosecuted the white supremacist’s case as an assistant United States Attorney; he was one of their own, so all of the justices in the appeals court covering South Carolina recused themselves from hear Roof’s appeal.
The ruling panel heard arguments in May and issued their decision on Wednesday was made up of justices from several other appellate circuits.
After today’s ruling, Roof’s attorneys can request the full 4th Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider the 3-justice panel’s decision. If unsuccessful in a direct appeal, he could file a 2255 appeal or request that the trial court review the constitutionality of his conviction and sentence.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
AP: Court upholds death sentence for church shooter Dylann Roof; by Meg Kinnard and Denise LaVoie
AP: Dylann Roof sentenced to death for killing 9 church members; by Meg Kinnard and Jeffery Collins
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Henry de Saussure Copeland’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License