An often-quoted old saying says, “Every man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client,” meaning, of course, that acting as your own lawyer usually ends badly for you. Notwithstanding that, accused Charleston NC church killer Dylann Roof was granted permission by a federal judge on Monday, Nov. 28th, to defend himself at his trial on 9 counts of murder. You’ll remember that 9 parishioners were murdered after their bible study class at the historic 200 year old Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston on June 17th, 2015. The killer entered the building that evening and was invited to sit in on the class, which included the senior pastor, State Senator Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney. After the class concluded the killer stood up, delivered several racist statements and then coldly shot Pinckney and eight others to death. A tenth victim survived. 21 year old Dylan Roof later confessed to the crime, saying that he wanted to ignite a race war. If convicted, he could face a sentence of death or thirty years to life in prison. His website included writings detailing his beliefs on race, and photographs showing him posing with the confederate flag and other symbols associated with white supremacy.
The jury selection was actually underway when US District Judge Richard Mark Gergel temporarily halted the process to allow Roof to be evaluated for competency. Gergel ruled Roof competent, but sealed the document outlining his reasons for doing so. Dylann Roof faces a total of 33 Federal charges, starting with 9 counts of murder and including Hate Crime charges, charges of obstruction of exercise of religion and others. There are also similar state charges leveled against him. As his own attorney, Roof is also permitted to object to potential jurors that he may feel are not fit to serve on the jury deciding his fate. I’m sure the whole country will be watching how this trial plays out.
Incidentally, the racially charged trial of ex-police officer Michael Slager, charged in the killing of an unarmed fleeing 50 year old African American man, Walter Scott, started a month ago in a courtroom directly across the street from the one where Roof’s trial will be held. A further “coincidence” is that the church shootings occurred on the 193rd anniversary of the date of a planned slave rebellion that was to have been led by Black abolitionist Denmark Vesey, who was a founder of the church! Vesey and 35 of his co-conspirators were discovered and hanged. The church was burned to the ground, later to be rebuilt following plans designed by Vesey’s son.
Jerry Wells from posts on CNN.com, cbsnews.com, huffingtonpost.com and wikipedia.org