In note to feds, Roof called his defense 'sneakiest group' he ever met

Dylann Roof appeared in a Charleston courtroom Monday. (Source: Pool)
Dylann Roof appeared in a Charleston courtroom Monday. (Source: Pool)

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The man who would be convicted of 33 federal charges in the Charleston church shooting told prosecutors he had been "fooled" by his own attorneys, a sign they said only proved he was unfit to stand trial.

Newly-released documents in the Dylann Roof federal trial include a handwritten letter to prosecutors in which he claimed his defense attorneys used scare tactics, threats, manipulation and outright lies against him.

Roof was sentenced to death in January after a jury convicted him on all counts in connection with the June 17, 2015 shooting of nine parishioners at Mother Emanuel AME Church in downtown Charleston.

"I am writing this letter to let you know that what my lawyers are planning to say in my defense is a lie and will be said without my consent or permission," Roof's letter began.

Roof claimed his attorneys "purposely kept me in the dark about my defense until the last minute" in an attempt to prevent him from being able to do anything about it, which he says is why he decided to send the note to the prosecution.

"Throughout my case, they have used scare tactics, threats, manipulation and outright lies in order to further their own, not my, agenda," he wrote. "For example, I was lied to repeatedly in order to get me to speak to mental health experts. I was told that I needed to talk to them in order to get medicine for a thyroid condition. Everything I was told about these experts and why I was being tested was an absolute lie, and I was never told what they actually specialized in."

He also claimed that out of four mental health experts, they chose only the ones that give their preferred diagnosis while ignoring the others.

Roof claimed he questioned why such extensive testing was required and he was told they needed to provide the jail doctor with as much material as possible to get that doctor to prescribe the medicine.

"You might wonder why I believed them, but I can assure you that this is the sneakiest group of people I have ever met, and words can't express how slick they are in their lies," he wrote.

He also claimed to prosecutors that because he has "no real defense," his attorneys were forced to "grasp at straws and to present a pathetic, fraudulent excuse for a defense" in his name.

"They have regularly told me in an aggressive manner that I have no say in my own defense, that my input doesn't matter and that there is nothing I can do about it."

He also claimed that almost anything his attorneys say should be "disregarded," adding, "and I will go as far as to say that they all, both federal and state, should be disbarred."

Defense attorneys responded to letter in motion

In a motion filed days later, Roof's attorneys requested the court reconsider a scheduled mental evaluation for Roof, citing the appearance of a "strained" relationship between Roof and his defense team, which might be noticeable to prospective jurors, and the letter he sent to prosecutors.

Roof's attorneys described his letter to prosecutors as an open attempt to "sabotage his own case, in a manner that potentially increased his odds of being sentenced to death."

"Such an action is irreconcilable with a wish to avoid death and therefore irrational even though presented in clear English," the motion states. "This crystallized for us that the defendant does not trust us, and that his lack of trust is not just driven by his mental illness (or, for that matter, his feelings about mental illness), but is a foundation of his incompetence."

The defense team told the court it had "long anticipated disagreements" and arguments over the penalty phase of the case.

"But we are now faced with a client who would rather die than be labeled mentally ill or neuro-developmentally impaired, and who would rather communicate and ally himself with those who propose to execute him than with us."

His lawyers called Roof's claims in the letter "demonstrably untrue" and said they "illustrate the extent to which the defendant's delusional system now incorporates his attorneys and the attorney-client relationship."

Roof's defense team said the court "should not force client and counsel to proceed with jury selection under such serious - and also apparent - strain."

On Monday, Roof pleaded guilty to 13 state counts against him in the killings in a plea deal that allowed him to escape the death sentence in the state case against him.

Authorities say Roof sat with the black parishioners in Bible study before opening fire in an effort to start a war between races.

The shooting claimed the lives of Pinckney, 41, and parishioners Cynthia Hurd, 54; Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45; Tywanza Sanders, 26; Ethel Lance, 70; Susie Jackson, 87; Depayne Middleton Doctor, 49; Rev. Daniel Simmons, 74; and Myra Thompson, 59.

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