Dylann Roof, the unabashed white supremacist who shot and killed nine black parishioners at a South Carolina church two years ago, says he wants to fire his attorneys because they are Jewish and Indian.
Roof, who was sent to death row for the June 2015 massacre at a historically black church in Charleston, said it’s “quite literally impossible” that he and the two public defenders appointed to handle his appeal could have the same interests relating to his case.
“Because of my political views, which are arguably religious, it will be impossible for me to trust two attorneys that are my political and biological enemies,” Roof said in a handwritten, three-page motion filed Monday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit.
The 23-year-old wrote that the ethnicities of his attorneys, Alexandra Yates and Sapna Mirchandani, are “a barrier to effective communication.”
The court will review Roof’s motion and decide whether he should be appointed new attorneys. Yates and Mirchandani did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Rishi Bagga, president of the South Asian Bar Association of North America, said he does not think the court will grant Roof’s request, which should be based on the lawyers’ legal abilities. He said Roof’s comments highlight a challenge among public defenders, who often have to represent clients who don’t reflect their own views.
“It’s really part of a lawyer’s oath to represent someone to the best of their ability regardless of their own beliefs, religion or background or origin,” Bagga said.
Roof has been on death row since a jury convicted him of dozens of charges, including federal hate crimes, for the deaths of nine parishioners who had invited him into their Bible study at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Roof’s new court filing isn’t the first time he has complained about his attorneys. During his trial, he sought to drop his defense attorney, David Isaac Bruck, whom Roof threatened to kill if he got out of jail. Bruck is also Jewish.