A judge has ruled for the second time that Dylann Roof is competent to represent himself and proceed with the penalty phase of his federal hate crimes trial, where he faces a potential death sentence for killing nine black parishioners at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church, reports the Charleston Post and Courier. U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel ruled yesterday after a closed, all-day hearing that drew from a weekend psychiatric evaluation. Gergel found Roof mentally competent earlier to stand trial after defense attorneys raised questions about the convicted killer’s psychiatric state. Gergel closed the hearing to the public over objections from news organizations.
The jury has been admonished to avoid information about the case outside of the courtroom and Roof has no privacy rights sufficient to close the hearing to the public, said attorney Jay Bender, who represents media outlets. “You’re closing our the community from this important part of the proceedings,” Bender said. U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel said he saw no choice given the pervasiveness of social media and the many ways jurors can be exposed to details that will be divulged during the hearing. “I can’t walk down the street without hearing people talk about this case,” Gergel said. “This tragedy profoundly affected this community.” Bender said that is more reason to open the hearing, so the public can understand what is happening and why.