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.
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.
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.
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)
‘You don’t get to dictate terms’: Trump soundly mocked for demanding speedy resolution to impeachment
President Donald Trump broke with his Republican defenders, who say impeachment is moving too fast, and demanded a quick resolution to the constitutional process.
House Democrats moved the impeachment process from the Intelligence Committee to the Judiciary Committee after nearly two weeks of testimony, and Trump called for a speedy end to the matter.
"The Do Nothing Democrats had a historically bad day yesterday in the House," Trump tweeted. "They have no Impeachment case and are demeaning our Country. But nothing matters to them, they have gone crazy."
"Therefore I say, if you are going to impeach me, do it now, fast, so we can have a fair trial in the Senate, and so that our Country can get back to business," he added. "We will have Schiff, the Bidens, Pelosi and many more testify, and will reveal, for the first time, how corrupt our system really is. I was elected to 'Clean the Swamp,' and that’s what I am doing!"
‘Our democracy is what’s at stake’: Pelosi shreds Trump in blistering endorsement of impeachment
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on Thursday endorsed drafting articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump and made the case that the president's actions made him a threat to American democracy.
During her address, Pelosi explained that the stakes in impeaching Trump were the very foundations of American government.
"Our democracy is at stake," she said. "The president leaves us no choice but to act because he is trying to corrupt, once again, the election for his own benefit. The president has engaged in abuse of power, undermining our national security, and jeopardizing the integrity of our elections."
InfoWars made up lies about Islamic community to help Alex Jones generate more traffic: former writer
On Thursday, The New York Times reported that Josh Owens, a former staffer at the fringe conspiracy theory site InfoWars, admitted that his team knowingly promoted fake stories about Islamberg, a rural religious community founded by mostly Black Muslims from New York City on the border between New York and Pennsylvania.
According to Owens, InfoWars initially conducted interviews with people near the community, hoping that they would tell horror stories about a group of militants hellbent on enslaving America under Sharia law. Instead, locals described the people of Islamberg as "kind, generous neighbors." This wasn't a story Alex Jones would have been able to sell to his far-right conspiracy theorist audience — so, Owens said, his team decided to just lie.