CHARLESTON, S.C. (UPI) — A federal judge on Monday allowed Dylann Roof to represent himself in his murder trial for the deaths of nine parishioners shot at a church in South Carolina last year.
Roof’s request was granted as jury selection was set to resume Monday morning.
U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel, who declared Roof on Friday mentally competent to stand trial, cautioned Roof to not serve as his own attorney but declared the defendant has a constitutional right to represent himself.
“I do find defendant has the personal capacity to self-representation,” Gergel said. “I continue to believe it is strategically unwise, but it is a decision you have the right to make.”
His attorneys will act as “stand-by counsel,” and Roof said he wants them to sit at the table with him.
The 22-year-old told Gergel he understood his attorneys have skills and experience he may not have, but he wanted to self-represent.
Roof answered the judge’s questions with “yes, sir” in a quiet voice.
After Gergel’s ruling, Roof returned to his defense table. He then sat in the front, center seat as his lead lawyer, a capital defense attorney David Bruck, moved over.
While Gergel asked prospective jurors about their views on the death penalty, media coverage they had seen about the case and other things, Roof did not ask any questions.
The jury pool to select 12 members and six alternates is 512.
Roof is accused of killing nine worshipers during bible study at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on June 17, 2015.
He faces 33 federal charges, including violations of hate crime laws and religious freedoms.
Roof has offered to plead guilty with life in prison, but federal authorities are seeking the death penalty. He also faces nine counts, including murder, in the state court system. That trial is scheduled to start in January.
Jury selection was delayed when the defense raised questions about Roof’s mental state arose three weeks ago.
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