U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel ruled on Friday that Dylan Roof is competent to stand trial for the 2015 murders of nine African-American churchgoers in Charleston.
After two days of closed-door hearings, Judge Gergel delivered the ruling. However, he explained that many of the facts and conclusions of 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 decision to close the competency hearing was highly criticized. 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 to seal the findings.
In addition to several news media representatives, the prosecutors and the families of the victims lodged objections to the closure. However, Judge Gergel did not shift from his stance on the issue.
According to Gergel's three-page order, Roof will be ruled not competent to stand trial "only if the court finds 'that the defendant is presently suffering from a mental disease or defect' that renders him 'unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him or to assist properly in his defense.'"
"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 jury selection for the trial will resume on Monday, according to USA Today.
22-year-old Dylan Roof faces 33 federal charges in connection with the murders of nine African-Americans at the Mother Emanuel AME church in Charleston last year. The prosecutors on the case are reportedly seeking the death penalty.
In the conclusion of Gergel's order, he said, "After carefully considering the record before the court, the relevant legal standards, and the arguments of counsel, the Court now finds and concludes that the Defendant is competent to stand trial."
If Gergel had ruled that Roof was not competent to stand trial, he would have been held in federal custody until a time when he was determined to be competent.
Do you think Dylan Roof was competent to stand trial in this murder trial?
[H/T USA Today]