Roof insists on representing himself, will offer no witnesses during sentencing trial

Convicted killer Dylann Roof told a federal judge that he intends to continue to represent himself as he faces the death penalty when his hate crime trial continues next week.

The Columbia-area man went before federal judge Richard Gergel on Wednesday morning to hammer out details of the next phase of the trial in preparation for the sentencing phase, which is scheduled to begin on Jan. 3. Roof was found guilty this month on all 33 counts filed against him in the shooting deaths of nine African-Americans at a historic Charleston church in June 2015.

While handcuffed and wearing a striped, white-and-gray jail jumpsuit, Roof addressed Gergel over several matters, including Roof’s concern that parts of his mental competency hearing be made public.

Prosecuting U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson told Gergel he plans to have about 30 witnesses testify during the sentencing phase of the trial, though some may change their mind as the time approaches.

Roof, however, said he intended to present none.

“As far as I know at this point, I’m not going to offer any evidence at all during the sentencing phase or any witnesses,” Roof said.

Gergel stressed that Roof should be open to listening to the advice of his family and his lawyers, and again admonished his decision to represent himself.

Since Roof was found guilty on Dec. 15, few motions have been filed in federal court. On Dec. 16, Roof filed a handwritten note that he would not be offering expert evidence on his mental condition during the sentencing proceedings.

A few days later, Gergel filed a sealed order, and lead prosecutor Richardson filed a sealed document Monday.

Shooting survivor Felicia Sanders (whose harrowing testimony brought many in court to tears) has said she will testify during the sentencing phase of the trial.

Roof’s lead attorney, David Bruck, has argued throughout the proceedings that Roof’s mental health should be a factor. But Bruck’s efforts were continually rebuffed by Gergel and rebuked by Richardson. Roof wrote, as part of his online white supremacy manifesto, that he didn’t believe in psychology.

Roof was warned repeatedly by Gergel that he thinks it’s a bad idea for Roof to represent himself. Roof initially announced he’d represent himself throughout both phases of the trial, but opted against that during the guilt portion of the trial, allowing Bruck to present the case.

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