CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Motions filed in the trial of convicted Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof reveal he had been diagnosed with multiple conditions and requested accommodations in the courtroom.
Roof was sentenced to death after being convicted of 33 federal charges in the June 17, 2015, shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church.
The court is in the process of unsealing some documents related to the case and deciding whether additional documents will be unsealed, partially unsealed or remain sealed.
A defense motion filed on Dec. 6 that requested courtroom accommodations reveals a competency evaluation found that Roof suffered from "social anxiety disorder, a mixed substance abuse disorder, a schizoid personality disorder, depression by history and a possible autistic spectrum disorder." The motion stated Roof's high IQ is "compromised by a significant discrepancy between his ability to comprehend and to process information and a poor working memory."
Roof's attorneys argued Roof's disabilities had both "easily-observable" effects and others that are "more difficult for the public and the Court to see." Those effects, the motion states, include:
- A detail-focused or "part-oriented" approach
- Excessive focus on non-essential details, and lack of big-picture orientation
- Difficulty processing multiple, simultaneous sources of information and shifting between subjects and activities
- Trouble retaining information when required to focus on more than one thing at a time
- An extreme need for predictability and routine, including rules and scripts, where possible, to anticipate what will take place
- Anxiety about things that cannot be predicted
- Difficulty adjusting to unexpected events
- A tendency to become easily overwhelmed
"In addition to the obvious implications on the defendant's ability to focus and participate with counsel in the courtroom, these symptoms also rapidly drain the defendant's energy, because of the effort that he must exert in his efforts to manage them," the motion states.
The motion then requested the court provide the following accommodations:
- Provide short breaks between direct examination and cross-examination, and between each witness, so that we may consult with the defendant to explain what is occurring and to receive his input
- Shorten the court day and/or sit a shorter week) choosing, for example, to begin later or end earlier, not to sit Wednesdays or Fridays, to sometimes sit half days, or to provide a longer lunch break to permit consultation and recovery)
- Require the government to, insofar as possible, provide two days' notice of the witnesses it plans to call so that counsel can discuss them with the defendant in advance
- Permit the defense to request a break as needed when the defendant is becoming overwhelmed by the volume of information
On U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel denied the motion for accommodations in a separate unsealed order, stating, he found no merit in the motion.
"The Court has found Defendant mentally competent to stand trial, and, indeed, Defendant was extremely engaged during his two-day competency hearing," Gergel wrote. "Courtroom proceedings during each day of the hearing lasted approximately eight-and-a-half hours, including the Court's customary breaks. At the end of the second day of the competency hearing, Defendant directly addressed the Court regarding the proceedings - at length and in detail."
Gergel wrote the trial would take place from approximately 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. on weekdays with "customary breaks" at intervals of approximately 90 minutes and for lunch.
Gergel had ordered a competency hearing for Roof in an order filed on Nov. 7 after defense counsel requested it.