#DylannRoof Federal Death Penalty Trial | Opening Statements

dylann-roof-trialThe judge in the Dylann Roof federal death penalty trial has denied a motion by attorneys to delay the trial.

Roof’s attorneys wanted to delay the trial because of the publicity surrounding the mistrial in a former police officer’s case. Roof’s lawyers filed the request Tuesday.

“The Court cannot respond to every breaking news story or development in the local court system by continuing a trial that has been scheduled since June 2016 or reopening comprehensive and completed voir dire,” US District Judge Richard Gergel stated Tuesday night.”The Court must maintain the orderly process of criminal trials.”

Jury selection is expected to start Wednesday in Charleston, where a mistrial was declared earlier this week for former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager.


The motion states the Slager mistrial, “declared less than 48 hours before the scheduled start of the trial in this case, is highly likely to create undue pressure on the jury to compensate for the judicial system’s apparent failure to punish Mr. Slager by imposing a harsher punishment here.”

Attorneys cite recent news articles and interviews that mention the Roof trial seemingly right along side the Slager trial, adding, “With the widely-held view that justice has not been served in the Slager trial…we have grave doubt whether the defendant can receive a fair trial.”

An order also filed on Tuesday states U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel denied a defense motion to strike the jury panel that has already been qualified. In the order, Gergel states on the same day he granted a defense motion to allow Roof’s standby counsel to be reinstated as his attorneys, the defense team filed a motion to strike the panel and redo individual voir dire, or interviews for prospective jurors, Roof’s attorneys made the request, the order states, because they felt Roof should not have been able to represent himself during the voir dire process and “frequently ignored the advice of his experienced [standby] counsel.”

“The argument essentially repackages the same arguments defense counsel previously raised while acting as Defendant’s standby counsel that the Court rejected,” Gergel said. “The jury selection process in this case has been searching, thorough, and fair.”

Roof’s attorneys say if U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel goes forward, he at least needs to question the jury pool extensively about their opinions in the Slager case.

Race plays a central role in both cases. Slager, who is white, shot and killed a black driver who fled a traffic stop.

Roof is charged with killing nine people at an African-American church in June 2015.

Posted in Black Lives Matter, crime, Criminal Justice, Current Events, Department of Justice, Domestic Terrorism, Hate Crime, Institutional Racism, Jim Crow laws, JusticeForEmanuel 9, Murder, News, Open Thread, racial hate, racial terror, Racism, Violence, White Supremacy | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 222 Comments

Wednesday Open Thread | Christmas Jams

beautiful-candles-6White Christmas” is an Irving Berlin song reminiscing about an old-fashioned Christmas setting. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the version sung by Bing Crosby is the best-selling single of all time, with estimated sales in excess of 50 million copies worldwide.[1][2][3][4]

Accounts vary as to when and where Berlin wrote the song.[4] One story is that he wrote it in 1940, in warm La Quinta, California, while staying at the La Quinta Hotel, a frequent Hollywood retreat also favored by writer-producer Frank Capra. He often stayed up all night writing — he told his secretary, “Grab your pen and take down this song. I just wrote the best song I’ve ever written — heck, I just wrote the best song that anybody’s ever written!”

Posted in Christmas Songs, Current Events, Music, News, Open Thread, Politics | Tagged , , , , | 43 Comments

Tuesday Open Thread | Christmas Jams

Christmas Candles 56Blue Christmas” is a Christmas song written by Billy Hayes and Jay W. Johnson. It is a tale of unrequited love during the holidays and is a longstanding staple of Christmas music, especially in the country genre.

The song was first recorded by Doye O’Dell in 1948,[3] and was popularized the following year in three separate recordings: one by country artist Ernest Tubb; one by bandleader Hugo Winterhalter and his orchestra; and one by bandleader Russ Morgan and his orchestra (the latter featuring lead vocals by Morgan and backing vocals by singers credited as the Morganaires).

Posted in Christmas Songs, Current Events, Music, News, Open Thread, Politics | Tagged , , , , | 36 Comments

President Obama | 2106 Kennedy Center Honors Reception

This is the President Obama’s last Kennedy Center Honors Reception.


Al Pacino, Mavis Staples, Martha Argerich, James Taylor, and The Eagles

THE 39TH ANNUAL KENNEDY CENTER HONORS, to be broadcast Tuesday, Dec. 27 (9:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT), on the CBS Television Network.



Posted in Arts, Barack Obama, Celebrations, Culture, Movies, Music, President Obama | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

#DylannRoof Federal Death Penalty Trial: Jury qualifications Day 6

dylann-roof-want-lawyers-backAccused Emanuel AME Church shooter Dylann Roof filed a motion Sunday asking a federal judge to let his defense team represent him again, but only through the guilt phase of his death penalty trial set to begin in three days.

After a two-sentence formal motion filed by his advisory lawyers, Roof hand-penned a note to the federal judge overseeing his case. In block letters on lined notebook paper, he wrote: “I would like to ask if my lawyers can represent me for the guilt phase of the trial only. Can you let me have them back for the guilt phase, and then let me represent myself for the sentencing phase of the trial?”


If U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel grants the highly unusual request, it would would allow Roof’s former defense team to take over for opening statements and the portion of the trial when prosecutors must prove Roof’s guilt. The defense attorneys already have offered for Roof to plead guilty and serve life in prison without parole, but federal prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for 33 counts including hate crimes.

Roof still wants to act as his own attorney during the last part of the trial, when jurors decide whether he will get death or life in prison without parole. That would give the self-avowed white supremacist control over what evidence is presented on his behalf when the time comes for the defense to try to sway jurors to give him life in prison.

During the penalty phase, defense attorneys typically offer evidence about a defendant’s serious mental illness or other brain impairments, history of abuse, severe family upheaval and similar issues as possible mitigating factors in a killing. Earlier court filings show the defense team Roof discharged last week had planned to provide evidence of a “mental disease or defect or any other mental condition.”

Nationally known death penalty defense attorneys describe often working with killers who either cannot, or will not, admit they suffer serious mental illness and will vehemently argue against offering evidence that could prove it. Some even move to represent themselves to avoid doing so.

“Most people with mental illness don’t want to be thought of as mentally ill and will frequently take steps against that kind of defense from being offered, particularly those with paranoid thought disturbances,” said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C.

He knew of capital cases in which defendants who represented themselves at trial wound up asking a judge to permit their standby counsel to take over as the trial moved forward. However, he wasn’t aware of any death penalty case in which a judge allowed a defendant to represent himself and then have standby counsel come back in only for the guilt phase.

Posted in Black Lives Matter, crime, Criminal Justice, Current Events, Department of Justice, Domestic violence, Gun Violence, Hate Crime, Institutional Racism, Jim Crow laws, JusticeForEmanuel 9, Murder, News, Open Thread, racial hate, racial terror, Racism, Violence, White Supremacy | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 34 Comments

Monday Open Thread | Christmas Jams

beautiful-christmas-candles-5Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree is a Christmas song written by Johnny Marks and recorded by Brenda Lee in 1958 on Decca9-30776.

Although Decca released it in both 1958 and again in 1959, it did not sell well until Lee became a popular star in 1960; that Christmas season, it hit #14 on the Billboard pop chart and turned into a perennial holiday favorite. It continued to sell well during the holiday season, hitting #5 on the Christmas chart as late as 1984. Brenda Lee’s recording still receives a great deal of airplay. Despite the song’s title, its instrumentation also fits the Country genre which Brenda Lee more fully embraced as her career evolved. Despite her mature-sounding voice, she recorded this song when she was only 14 years old. The recording featured Hank Garland’s ringing guitar.

For decades, Brenda Lee’s recording was the only notable version of the song. Radio stations ranging from Top 40 to Adult Contemporary to Country Music to Oldies to even Adult Standards played this version.

Posted in Christmas Songs, Current Events, Music, News, Open Thread, Politics | Tagged , , , , | 36 Comments

Sunday Praise & Worship | Christmas Jams

Christmas Candles18“What Child Is This?” is a Christmas carol whose lyrics were written by William Chatterton Dix, in 1865. At the time of composing the carol, Dix worked as an insurance company manager and had been struck by a severe illness. While recovering, he underwent a spiritual renewal that led him to write several hymns, including lyrics to this carol that was subsequently set to the tune of “Greensleeves“, a traditional English folk song. Although it was written in England, the carol is more popular in the United States than in its country of origin today.

Posted in Christmas Songs, Current Events, Music, News, Open Thread, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , | 19 Comments