After witnessing a protracted delay in the case of Dylann Roof, finally the judge has paved way for the trial to commence.
According to documents obtained by Mic, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel ruled the 22-year-old can stand trial for killing nine Black worshippers at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in June 2015.
Judge Rules Dylann Roof Competent to Stand Trial in Charleston Massacre; Date Set for Jury Selection https://t.co/YHMCrMHMt1
— HipHopzilla.com (@HipHopzilla) November 26, 2016
“The test for competency is whether the defendant ‘has a sufficient present ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding’ and ‘has a rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against him,’ ” Gergel said. “After carefully considering the record before the court, the relevant legal standards and the arguments of counsel, the court now finds and concludes that the defendant is competent to stand trial.”
The update followed the delay in the case’s jury-selection process. Lawyers were set to begin narrowing down more than 500 candidates to 12 members with six substitutes earlier this month. However, Gergel received an immediate notice to solely meet with Roof and the defense team. As a result, a psychiatrist tested Roof and bystanders gave their accounts of the matter at a hearing this week. The jury will be chosen on Monday, Gergel revealed.
Roof faces the death penalty in the shooting, known as the Charleston Massacre. In August, Atlanta Black Star reported his team offered to plead guilty should punishment by death become a non-option. Roof shot and killed nine members of Mother Emanual, a historically Black church. Because of that, his federal charges total 33. They include using a firearm, violating the Hate Crime Act and hindering the freedom of religion.
U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel made the ruling in a three-page order that kept sealed exactly what he found, a step he said was necessary to make sure Dylann Roof gets a fair trial. Hearings on the matter were also conducted in secret.
“After carefully considering the record before the Court, the relevant legal standards, and the arguments of counsel, the Court now finds and concludes that the Defendant is competent to stand trial,” Gergel wrote.
Roof is charged with federal hate crimes in connection with the June 2015 shooting at the Emanuel AME Church. Prosecutors have alleged he carefully planned the attack, which was motivated by his animosity toward African Americans.
In the shooting’s aftermath, authorities said they found a racist manifesto Roof had posted on his website and modified just hours before the attack. The site was filled with racial stereotypes and diatribes against black, Jewish and Hispanic people as well as photos of Roof holding a .45-caliber Glock pistol and a Confederate flag.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, and Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch has said the “nature of the alleged crime and the resulting harm compelled this decision.”
A determination that Roof is competent means that he understands the nature of the proceedings against him and can assist in his own defense. Roof is also facing state charges in connection with the killings, but that trial also has been delayed because of concerns about competence.
A judge has ruled that Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof is competent to stand trial. pic.twitter.com/PpztxXBpPk
— Fox News (@FoxNews) November 25, 2016
A defense attorney for Roof did not return a message seeking comment. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in South Carolina declined to comment.
Roof faces 33 federal charges: nine counts of violating the Hate Crime Act resulting in death; three counts of violating the Hate Crime Act involving an attempt to kill; nine counts of obstruction of exercise of religion resulting in death; three counts of obstruction of exercise of religion involving an attempt to kill and use of a dangerous weapon; nine counts of use of a firearm to commit murder during and in relation to a crime of violence, CNN reports.
If convicted, he could face the death penalty.
Roof also faces nine counts of murder and other charges in the state court system. His trial in that case is scheduled to start in January.
The excuse of the mental instability of Dylann Roof was surely not going to work. He deserves to be punished for killing innocent people. His act was purely that of a hate crime and there shouldn’t be any form of conspiracy to cover up for him. The family of the deceased deserves justice.