Dylann Roof is highly intelligent and objected to his defense team raising recent questions about his mental competency, according to a judge’s newly unsealed order that allowed the accused Emanuel AME Church shooter to represent himself.
U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel wrote that he found Roof has an “extremely high IQ” and no cognitive impairment.
Gergel, who is presiding over Roof’s federal death penalty trial, verbally granted Roof’s request to represent himself on Monday just as jury selection was set to begin. The written order provides more detail about Roof’s prior competency hearing and Gergel’s reasons for allowing Roof to act as his own attorney.
The judge also noted that Roof opposed his attorneys’ recent questions about his mental competency, which led to a new psychiatric evaluation. Gergel then held a closed-door competency hearing on Nov. 21 and Nov. 22 and on Friday found Roof competent to stand trial.
The nature of questions about Roof’s mental competency remains shrouded in sealed court documents.
“While repeatedly asking Defendant to confirm his desire to represent himself, the Court closely observed Defendant’s demeanor. Defendant was alert, focused, and confident as he expressed his resolve to represent himself,” Gergel wrote in the redacted version of his order released Wednesday.
However, after the competency hearing, Roof asked the judge: “Is there any way that someone could write … a document that would take away all responsibility from my lawyers, but still keep them as my lawyers and then they could do whatever I say, but they wouldn’t have any responsibility, and then I could sign it?”
Gergel explained that Roof’s attorneys had a professional obligation to present an effective defense.
“Okay. But I also have a right to represent myself,” Roof responded, according to the judge’s order.
Roof made a formal request to act as his own attorney on Monday. Gergel cautioned Roof against the move, calling it “strategically unwise” and noting the defense team’s considerable legal expertise.
Roof, 22, is accused of gunning down nine black worshipers at the historic Charleston church’s Bible study in June 2015. Authorities say he targeted his victims because of their race. The Eastover man faces 33 federal charges, including violations of hate crime laws and religious freedoms. He has offered to plead guilty and serve life in prison, but federal authorities are seeking the death penalty.