Dylann Roof set to represent himself in his trial’s sentencing phase


Charleston, South Carolina (CNN) – The white supremacist who killed nine people at a historically black church is set to represent himself in court Wednesday as jurors weigh whether to give him a death sentence.

Dylann Roof told a judge last week that he planned to make opening and closing statements, but would not call any witnesses in the penalty phase of the federal trial.

US District Judge Richard Gergel, who ruled that Roof is competent to represent himself this week, has issued an order saying the 22-year-old can’t approach the jury, the witness stand or the bench when he speaks in court.

How Dylann Roof might save himself (Opinion)

Last month jurors convicted Roof of federal murder and hate crimes charges for the June 2015 massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.

Prosecutors presented Roof as a “cold and calculating” killer, arguing that he carefully planned the attack and chose the church because he wanted to start a race war.

The jury heard an FBI agent read a series of Roof’s racist writings. And they watched a video of Roof laughing after admitting he killed the victims. But they didn’t hear directly from Roof in that phase of the trial; the defense did not call any witnesses, and Roof didn’t take the stand.

Roof was convicted of 33 federal charges: nine counts of violating the Hate Crime Act resulting in death, three counts of violating the Hate Crime Act involving an attempt to kill, nine counts of obstruction of exercise of religion resulting in death, three counts of obstruction of exercise of religion involving an attempt to kill and use of a dangerous weapon, and nine counts of use of a firearm to commit murder during and in relation to a crime of violence.

Roof also is scheduled to be tried on state murder charges, for which he could also be sentenced to death.

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