Judge Finds Accused Church Shooter Competent for Trial

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A judge found accused Emanuel AME Church shooter Dylann Roof mentally competent to face his death penalty trial, the Charleston Post and Courier reports. Jury selection is scheduled to begin today. U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel ruled after a two-day closed-door competency hearing. The competency order doesn’t provide any details about the nature of questions regarding Roof’s mental state. Roof, 22, is accused of gunning down nine worshipers during the church’s Bible study in June 2015

Gergel banned the public from the competency hearing despite pleas last week from many of the nine shooting victims’ families and the survivors who wanted to observe the proceedings. Several media outlets, including The Post and Courier, also objected to the closure. The judge said releasing the transcript “would prejudice the Defendant’s right to a fair trial and a fair and impartial jury.” A psychiatric exam was performed on Nov. 15 by Dr. James Ballenger, the Medical University of South Carolina’s longtime psychiatry chairman before going into private practice. The test for competency is whether the defendant “has a sufficient present ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding” and “has a rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against him,” Gergel’s order says.

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