CHARLESTON, S.C. — The man accused of fatally shooting nine black parishioners at a South Carolina church will act as his own attorney in his federal death penalty trial.
Dylann Roof’s request Monday came against his lawyers’ advice, and U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel said he would reluctantly accept the 22-year-old’s “unwise” decision.
Noted death penalty attorney David Bruck then slid over and let Roof take the lead chair. The lawyers can stand by and help Roof if he asks.
Police say Roof hurled racist insults at the six women and three men he’s accused of killing and the three people he left alive in the June 2015 attack at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.
Federal prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Roof on hate crime, obstruction of religion and other charges.
Roof was deemed competent to stand trial last week.
Roof, 22, is charged with counts including hate crimes and obstruction of religion in the Emanuel AME Church shootings. It’s the first of two death penalty trials he faces.
The jury selection process was halted Nov. 7 after Roof’s lawyers questioned his ability to understand the case against him. U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel’s ruling last week cleared the way for Monday’s process to begin anew.
Beginning Monday, 516 potential jurors will report to the courthouse to be individually questioned by the judge. When 70 qualified jurors are picked, attorneys can use strikes to dismiss those they don’t want.