In the grand tradition of heinous criminals (like Ted Bundy) egomaniacally choosing to represent themselves in court, Dylann Roof (22) has decided to act as his own lawyer in his upcoming trial. The request goes against the advice of his lawyers.
Roof, who is accused of killing nine people at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, was granted his request just yesterday. The jury is now carefully being chosen, with each potential peer being grilled on their beliefs about the death penalty.
New York Times writer Kevin Sack analyzed the situation, saying that the trial "would now take on elements of farce and reveal less than some hoped about the psychological origins of Mr. Roof’s alleged rampage. By controlling his case, they said, Mr. Roof may decline to present evidence of his mental instability that his highly regarded defense team might have emphasized in both the guilt and penalty phases. Federal prosecutors are seeking to send Mr. Roof to death row, having rejected his offer to plead guilty to 33 charges in exchange for a life sentence."
Roof had only recently been declared competent enough to stand trial at all. “I do find the defendant has the personal capacity to self-representation,” Judge Gergel said. “I continue to believe it is strategically unwise, but it is a decision you have the right to make.”
Many are critical of the judge's decision. Some fear that it will allow the court to become "an unobstructed forum for his white supremacist views."
Robert Dunham, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, had this to say about the situation: “Key issues never get raised because the defendant knows nothing about the law... And often with mentally ill defendants whose murders were a product of their mental illness, they will attempt to justify their conduct instead of presenting evidence that their mental illness makes them less culpable.”
“When an emotionally disturbed defendant is permitted to cross-examine those witnesses and ask questions that may be based on a delusional view of reality, it only makes things worse,” Dunham added.
According to CNN, Roof faces a total of 33 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; and nine counts of use of a firearm to commit murder during and in relation to a crime of violence."
[Photo: Getty Images]