CHARLESTON, S.C. — The white supremacist accused of killing nine black parishioners during a Bible study is intent on keeping a secret as jury selection for his upcoming trial continues.
Dylann Roof, representing himself against murder and hate crime charges, on Friday told a federal judge he does not want his former defense attorneys to present evidence they believe would be favorable to his case. The nature of the evidence that has caused a rift between Roof and the attorneys has not been publicly disclosed.
By Friday evening, the court completed its individual questioning of jurors, ending with a pool of 67. From that lot, prosecutors and Roof will strike prospective members until a panel of 12 jurors and six alternates is reached, a process set to begin Wednesday, a day that will likely also see opening statements from the government.
Since finding Roof competent to represent himself, U.S. District Court JudgeRichard Gergel has repeatedly chastised Roof’s former defense team, first for speaking for their former client in court, and later for filing motions relating to their desire to win a louder voice in Roof’s trial.
“You can’t have a two-headed monster, pardon me, you cannot have two people making a decision,” Gergel said Friday after Roof’s former lead defender tried to argue for a larger role in the case. “You must have one person.”
Even with the rift between Roof and his defense team regarding that mitigating evidence, the 22-year-old defendant also wants to allow his dismissed lawyers to speak for him in court, while retaining all decision-making powers.
Gergel has refused that arrangement, repeatedly informing Roof that should he again want to be represented by his defense team, the court would entertain that motion.
He told Roof on Friday that he hopes the weekend, with advice from family and his standby counsel, brings him back around to agreeing to legal representation.
“You have a little bit of the flavor of what it’s like to represent yourself,” Gergel had told him Thursday, a sentiment he echoed Friday morning.
The flavor of lawyering that Roof has experienced is only a small taste courtroom pressures. In the current stage of jury selection — one that seeks to qualify 70 people as potential jurors — all are individually questioned by the judge, often with a focus on their feelings regarding the death penalty.
Prosecutors and Roof can propose further questions or move to keep or strike prospective jurors once they leave the room, but all of the interviewing to this point, and therefore the bulk of work, has been done by Gergel.
When jury prospects are out of earshot, the judge has allowed Roof time to consult with his standby counsel about questions that should be put to individuals, but has chastised that team when they try to speak to the court directly.
Roof continues to work with and speak cordially to his former lawyers, a team that includes some of the country’s most respected names in death penalty litigation.
His former lead attorney is David Bruck, who has taken seven capital cases to theU.S. Supreme Court and cemented his status in the national spotlight two decades ago by winning a life sentence for Susan Smith, the South Carolina mother who faced a death penalty trial in the drownings of her two young sons.
In court documents, Bruck and colleagues argue capital cases offer complexities beyond the skill sets of even experienced criminal attorneys.