CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The man facing 33 charges and a possible death penalty in the shooting deaths of nine people at a downtown Charleston church filed a legal objection to the federal case Thursday.
Dylann Storm Roof, 22, is charged in the June 17, 2015 Emanuel AME Church shooting that claimed the lived of nine parishioners after a Bible study.
In a filing dated Thursday, Roof, through court-appointed standby counsel, objected the proceedings as violating his Eighth Amendment right to "a reliable determination of his culpability and sentence in a capital case," because of the court's refusal to authorize "reasonable, limited assistance he has requested from standby counsel."
The filing states Roof's request to represent himself, granted by U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel, is not a "tactic" designed to gain any kind of advantage in the trial, and cites Gergel's own judicial opinion filed on Wednesday that states "no facts suggest Defendant's motion is 'a tactic for delay; for disruption for distortion of the system; or for manipulation of the trial process.'"
Roof also argues that in death penalty trials, self-representation is compounded by both the complexity and the stakes a defendant faces. The vast majority of lawyers are not qualified to handle death penalty cases, the filing states.
For this reason, Roof argues, the Constitution provides "special protections" in capital cases because of the life-or-death stakes, such as special accommodations that would include allowing standby counsel to explain voir dire objections for Roof. Voir dire is a legal term that refers to a preliminary examination of a witness or juror.
The objection states that the court must balance Roof's Sixth Amendment right to represent himself in the trial with his other Constitutional rights.
"The Court's refusal to permit the defendant to call on standby counsel for assistance works against even that modest aim," the motion states. "Both the Constitution and the public interest require reconsideration of the Court's approach."
You can view the entire filing here:
There is no word yet on when the court will rule on the objection, although a pretrial meeting has been scheduled for Monday, according to a separate filing from Gergel.