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Dylann Roof to address jurors from podium during death penalty trial

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Jurors who found white supremacist Dylann Roof guilty of federal crimes tied to the killings of nine black parishioners at a South Carolina church will hear directly from him on Wednesday as the sentencing phase of his death penalty trial begins.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel ruled on Monday that Roof, 22, was mentally fit to stand trial and act as his own lawyer as prosecutors make the case that he should be executed for the 2015 massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.

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But Gergel restricted Roof’s movements in the courtroom, ordering him to speak to jurors from behind a podium when he delivers his opening statement and barring him from approaching the jury, witnesses or the judge during the proceedings.

Roof confessed to gunning down nine people at a church Bible study session.

Jurors deliberated a little less than two hours last month before finding him guilty on all 33 federal counts of hate crimes, obstruction of religion and firearms charges against him.

Roof’s strategy for the sentencing phase is unclear.

He told the court he would give an opening statement but call no witnesses and offer no evidence, a revelation that prompted the lawyers who represented him during the guilt phase to question his competency.

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Roof sought to represent himself in order to keep the jury from hearing mental health evidence about him, defense counsel David Bruck said in court documents. Such evidence is meant to sway a jury toward a sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole instead of the death penalty.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson said the government would present new evidence and call up to 38 family members of Emanuel victims to the witness stand.

Roof’s conviction set him up to be the first person to face back-to-back federal and state death sentences since the United States reinstated the death penalty at the national level in 1988.

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Jury selection for his state trial on murder charges is expected to start later this month.

(Reporting by Harriet McLeod; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Matthew Lewis)

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Trump has rolled out a ‘new scam’ amid internal turmoil over Fauci: op-ed

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Writing in the Washington Post this Thursday, Greg Sargent takes a look at the Trump's administration's recent walkback of its attempts to undermine its top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, after they discovered that it wasn't being received by the public so well.

According to Sargent, President Trump's "new scam" is to present the image that his administration actually respects Fauci's advice while continuing to undermine him behind the scenes.

"What’s really going on here is a kind of two-step, a double game," Sargent writes. "Trump and his advisers want him to reap the political benefits of appearing to harbor general respect for Fauci’s expertise, while simultaneously continuing to undermine Fauci’s actual claims about the threat the novel coronavirus will continue to pose — because those claims badly undermine Trump’s reelection message."

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2020 Election

GOP strategist who wrote party’s 2012 autopsy says she hopes the party loses this year

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Former Republican strategist Sally Bradshaw, who wrote the GOP's so-called "autopsy" after its 2012 election losses, is hoping the party comes crashing down in defeat this fall.

In an email to NPR, Bradshaw conceded that the 2012 election postmortem was "obviously a failure," given that President Donald Trump had taken over the party in 2016 by explicitly ignoring its recommendations about taking a more inclusive approach to immigration reform.

However, she also seemed to think that the GOP's bill for not becoming a more inclusive party had finally come due given its failures to govern through a deadly pandemic that so far has claimed the lives of 137,000 Americans with no end in sight.

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Brutal video targeting moms hits Trump for trying to hurt their children by returning to school in pandemic

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President Donald Trump and Education Sec. Betsy DeVos announced this month that schools must reopen regardless of the dangers of the COVID-19 pandemic. Republican leaders have maintained that not being in school is so detrimental to the development of children that parents must risk their lives and the lives of their families, teachers, principals, and other school administration members.

Author Don Winslow posted a video directed at mothers recalling all of the great moments in a child's development from their first words to their first steps and their first days of school.

"Now Donald Trump wants you to abandon your most primal and powerful motherly instinct to protect your child," the video says. "Trump and Betsy DeVos have said children don't get Coronavirus. Tell that to the families of these children who all died from Coronavirus."

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