Accused South Carolina church shooter Dylann Roof got to work helping to pick the jury that will decide whether he lives or dies as he embarked on a risky strategy casting aside his top-flight defense team in favor of representing himself in his federal hate crimes trial. reports the Charleston Post and Courier.
The judge expressed misgivings but granted Roof’s request to serve as his own attorney with the death penalty hanging in the balance. The ruling sets the stage for the self-avowed white supremacist to question the shooting survivors and family members of the nine victims if they are called to testify.
Roof made the last-minute request as jury selection was set to begin yesterday after a three-week delay to determine whether he was mentally competent to stand trial. U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel ruled the case could proceed but cautioned Roof against representing himself, noting his defense team’s considerable legal expertise. Roof stood in the front of the courtroom and answered the judge’s questions with “yes, sir” in a quiet, raspy voice. Roof then sat in the front-and-center seat as his lead lawyer, capital defense attorney David Bruck scooted over. Roof told the judge that he wanted the attorneys he’d just spurned to sit at the table with him. They still can advise Roof. If Roof thinks he can intimidate the two women who survived the bloodshed by grilling them, their attorney thinks it will backfire. “They have a lot to say to him, and this may provide them with an unanticipated opportunity. The strength of their words will undoubtedly be more powerful than his rants of hate,” said attorney Andy Savage, who represents Polly Sheppard and Felicia Sanders. Sanders’ son, Tywanza, died in the attack.