White supremacist Dylann Roof, facing the death penalty for the hate-fueled killings of nine black churchgoers in South Carolina, did not mention race, the crime or whether he wants to live as he spoke on Wednesday to jurors at his federal trial.
Instead, the 22-year-old defended his decision to represent himself for the penalty phase of the proceedings in Charleston, telling jurors he did not want them to hear any of the mental health evidence his lawyers had sought to introduce.
“There’s nothing wrong with me psychologically,” he told the jury, which will weigh whether Roof should be executed or sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole.
The same jury last month found Roof guilty of all 33 federal counts of hate crimes resulting in death, obstruction of religion and firearms charges against him for the 2015 massacre at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel ruled that Roof was mentally fit to stand trial and act as his own lawyer.
Roof spoke to jurors for only a few minutes on Wednesday, describing in a calm voice how he had been forced to undergo two mental health evaluations after his attorneys questioned his competency.
He acknowledged that his comments would seem “out of place” following the opening statement by Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathan Williams, who moments earlier said Roof deserved to be executed.
Williams highlighted Roof’s months of planning, his lack of remorse and his motivation for carrying out the crime that shocked the nation.
“He killed them because of the color of their skin, because he thought they were less than people,” Williams said.
Roof confessed to killing the parishioners who had welcomed him to their Bible meeting and had their eyes closed in prayer when he opened fire.
Six weeks after his arrest, jailers found a racist manifesto Roof had penned in his cell, Williams said.
“I did all that I can do. Now it is in the hands of my brothers,” Roof wrote, according to evidence shown in court.
(Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Alistair Bell and Matthew Lewis)