Dylann Roof Will Represent Himself In Charleston Church Shooting Case

On Monday, a federal judge ruled that the man charged of murdering nine black churchgoers in [...]

On Monday, a federal judge ruled that the man charged of murdering nine black churchgoers in Charleston, S.C., Dylann Roof, is permitted to represent himself in his federal death-penalty trial.

Richard M. Gergel of the Federal District Court in Charleston granted the 22-year-old the right to represent himself in court. Judge Gergel said it was "strategically unwise" but he allowed him to have a lawyer present as backup, according to the New York Times.

"I do find defendant has the personal capacity to self-representation," Judge Gergel said. "It is a decision you have the right to make."

Previously, noted death-penalty lawyer David I. Bruck represented Roof, who will remain on standby.

The jury selection for the case will begin on Monday.

Just last week, Judge Gergel ruled that Dylann Roof is competent to stand trial for the June 17, 2015 murders of nine African-Americans at the Emanuel African Methodist church. Roof was 21 at the time of the murders and was arrested the following day at a traffic stop about 250 miles north of Charleston in Shelby, North Carolina.

Judge Gergel delivered the ruling after sitting through two days of closed-door hearings. He explained that many of the facts and conclusions of the law were sealed because "the public disclosure of that document at this time would prejudice defendant's rights under the Fifth and Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution and place in jeopardy the Defendant's right to select a fair and impartial jury and to a fair trial."

"The test for competency is whether the defendant 'has a sufficient present ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding' and 'has a rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against him,'" Gergel said. "A defendant must have the 'capacity to understand the nature and object of the proceedings against him, to consult with counsel, and to assist in preparing his defense.'"

The decision to seal the documents from the competency hearing was highly criticized in the media. Several news outlets including The Greenville news, USA Today Network, the Associated Press, the Charleston Post and Courier, The State newspapers, National Public Radio, and WCSC-TV all publicly objected to Judge Gergel's choice.

Dylan Roof
(Photo: Charleston County Sheriff's Office)

There are 33 federal charges against the self-proclaimed white supremacist. The charges include hate crimes resulting in death.

Roof has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The Department of Justice will be seeking the death penalty for Roof in the trial that has been set for early in 2017.

What are your thoughts about Dylann Roof representing himself in his upcoming murder trial?

[H/T New York Times, ABC News]