Judge Grants Roof’s Request to Act as Own Attorney

CHARLESTON, S.C. (The State/TNS) -

Days after accused Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof was found mentally fit to stand trial, he will now act as his own lawyer.

The surprise request Monday, approved by U.S. Judge Richard Gergel, means Roof could play a role in questioning witnesses, including survivors of the slayings.

Roof, 22, is charged with killing nine black parishioners at Emanuel AME Church on June 17, 2015 — shootings that federal prosecutors say occurred to incite racial tensions across the nation.

Though Roof will represent himself, his legal team — which includes some of the nation’s foremost anti-death penalty lawyers — will still assist him.

By mid-morning Monday, three jurors had been qualified but four others had been ruled out, including one man who told Gergel he would give the death penalty in all circumstances.

In a death penalty trial, a juror has to be able to consider life without parole as punishment instead.

Jury selection was supposed to begin Nov. 7, but Roof’s lawyers surprised the judge and prosecutors then by bringing up his mental competence.

Gergel instantly ordered an independent psychiatric evaluation of Roof, who was found competent to stand trial Friday.