Dylann Roof, the man convicted in a church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, told a federal judge on Wednesday that he would present no witnesses or evidence when he represents himself during the sentencing phase of his death penalty trial next week.
Roof, a 22-year-old avowed white supremacist, was found guilty on Dec. 15 on 33 charges of federal hate crimes resulting in death, obstruction of religion and firearms violations stemming from the June 2015 massacre of nine people at a historic black church.
The same jury that heard six days of testimony about the bloodshed at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church will reconvene on Tuesday for the trial’s penalty phase.
Roof, handcuffed and wearing a prison jumpsuit, smiled and answered “yes” when U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel asked if he still planned to serve as his own lawyer as the case is made about whether he should be executed or get life in prison without parole.
“I think it’s a bad idea,” Gergel warned, encouraging Roof to discuss his decision with his family and lawyers.
The judge said he would allow Roof to change his mind up until the penalty phase gets under way.
Roof did not indicate whether he planned to testify on his own behalf.
Roof represented himself for a week during jury selection before asking for his attorneys back for the duration of the trial’s guilt phase.
His guilt in the shootings was not disputed. But his defense lawyers, hoping to spare him from execution, asked jurors to consider what factors had driven Roof to commit the act and suggested he might be delusional.
The defense did not call any witnesses during the guilt phase after Gergel ruled that evidence about Roof’s mental state could not be presented until the penalty phase.
(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Frances Kerry)