Released trial documents detail evidence seized, Dylann Roof's brief time under suicide watch

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Newly-unsealed documents from the trial of the man accused in the Charleston church shooting are revealing new details about evidence gathered and why he was placed under a brief suicide watch.

Dylann Roof, 22, was sentenced to death on Jan. 11 after his conviction in December on 33 federal charges related to the June 17, 2015, shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church.

The court is in the process of unsealing or partially unsealing documents related to the case.

In a motion originally filed on July 20, 2016, Roof's attorneys argued statements Roof made immediately after his arrest the morning after the shooting and evidence seized from his car and from a home should have been suppressed.

Attorneys claimed Roof's post-arrest statement should not have been allowed to be heard by jurors because of questions about Roof's physical and mental condition, citing a videotape of his statements they say revealed "unusual behaviors" by Roof. They also claimed police tactics rendered Roof's Miranda waiver and statement were not voluntarily given.

A Miranda waiver occurs when a person arrested waives his rights to decline to speak to police and to have an attorney present before he speaks with police.

His attorneys argued Roof was "vulnerable to the coercive tactics employed here," because of Roof's youth, lack of sleep and "mental health and neurological issues."

Attorneys also cited search warrants that allowed for the seizure of only specific items from his car and the two homes in which he lived. The warrants, they say, authorized police to seize "any and all evidence to include but not limited to, latent prints, hairs, DNA, fibers, fluids, blood, or other biological evidence; weapons, weapon components, ammunition, projectiles; and/or any photographs, cellular devices, contraband, narcotics, U.S. currency, and/or documents, clothing and articles of identification that could aid in the criminal investigation of murder."

But they argue that police removed "virtually everything" found in his car, including three flash drives, a laptop computer, a GPS device and six DVDs/CDs. calling the seizure of those items "indicative of the fishing expedition in which law enforcement was engaged."

The motion argued for the suppression of evidence taken from the homes of Roof's mother and father because search warrants failed to explain why law enforcement expected to find additional evidence there after they consented to earlier searches.

Documents also detail items taken from Roof's car and his mother's and father's homes and some photos of Roof and the items investigators intended to seize.

Roof spent brief time under suicide watch

Another unsealed defense motion claimed a government employee entered Roof's jail cell without his knowledge and removed and photocopied a 31-page handwritten document containing "extremely sensitive, confidential, case-related material" and then gave the copies to prosecutors. Roof, his attorneys said, wrote the document in response to questions posed by his attorneys to guide future talks about Roof's thought processes.

Roof's attorneys did not learn the contents of the document had been supplied to opposing attorneys until 18 days later, the motion states.

It also stated a member of the Charleston County Sheriff's Office's Criminal Intelligence Unit read and copied all of Roof's incoming and outgoing mail, including a letter read on or about Aug. 3, 2015, that Roof had written to his sister. That letter, the defense stated, quoted Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's novel "The Sorrows of Young Werther," a book in which the protagonist committed suicide. That employee notified the jail's chief deputy of the contents of the letter and Roof was placed on a "15-minute watch," which required officers to check on him every 15 minutes, presumably as a precaution against Roof committing suicide, the motion states.

The jail mental health staff quickly determined Roof was not suicidal and the watch was abandoned the same day, the motion states.

Roof had 'strong preference' to wear jail jumpsuit in court

Another unsealed document was a letter from Roof's defense team to U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel written on Sept. 21 that stated Roof wanted to wear his striped county jail jumpsuit whenever he was in court.

"This preference does not have anything to do with his political views, but it is strong and seemingly fixed," the letter states.

Attorney David Bruck wrote to Gergel that he would make sure civilian clothes would be available to Roof should he change his mind, but said it was possible Roof would insist on wearing jail clothes despite his defense counsel's advice.

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