Dylann Roof’s attorneys have filed a motion challenging the constitutionality of the death penalty, requesting that the government drop the penalty as a possible punishment in his federal court case, reports the Charleston Post and Courier. The lawyers said their challenge is a result of the government’s pursuit of the death penalty instead of accepting his offer to plead guilty to all 33 federal counts and accept multiple life sentences. The charges against Roof, 22, include hate crimes and religious rights violations for the June 2015 shooting that killed nine black worshippers at Emanuel AME Church. Roof’s attorneys argued the Federal Death Penalty Act constitutes “unconstitutional punishment” and violates the Fifth and Eighth amendments.
“The facts of this case are indisputably grave. But if, as we contend here, the FDPA is unconstitutional, no one can be lawfully sentenced to death or executed under it, no matter what his crimes,” yesterday’s motion said.
The attorneys contend that while the death penalty law “may have been designed with as much care as possible under the circumstances, the capital sentencing process that the statute provides is constitutionally inadequate in practice. The results of jurors’ good-faith grappling with the law — arbitrary, biased, and erroneous death verdicts — are intolerable as a matter of due process and proportional punishment.” Roof’s federal trial is set for Nov. 7.