Federal judge denies Dylann Roof new trial, newly-unsealed documents released

Federal judge denies Dylann Roof new trial, newly-unsealed documents released

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A federal judge has denied a motion from Dylann Roof for a new trial in the deaths of nine parishioners at a downtown Charleston church.

Roof was convicted this past December on 33 federal charges relating to the June 17, 2015, shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church. He was sentenced to death on those charges in January.

In the motion filed on Wednesday, US District Court Judge Richard Gergel called some of Roof's arguments for a new trial "unpersuasive." Roof had specifically asked for a new trial and a judgment of acquittal.

In April, Roof agreed to plead guilty to 13 state charges that included nine counts of murder, three counts of attempted murder and a weapons charge for life sentences without parole.

Roof's second competency evaluation unsealed

Newly released documents include a second competency evaluation performed on Jan. 1.

The examiner, Dr. James C. Ballenger, has served as a clinical psychiatrist for more than 45 years and a psychiatric expert for more than 30, the report states. Ballenger met with Roof for approximately three hours on Dec. 31 at the Charleston County Detention Center with the understanding that Ballenger would only consider events that had taken place since an early evaluation, the report states.

"Almost before we began, he asked about the color of my gray suit coat, asking whether it was a blend of black and what other color," Ballenger wrote. "He then rapidly turned his attention to his irritation about his stand-by lawyers 'messing with [him]."

Ballenger reported Roof stated concerns about an earlier expert report, asking how someone who is "a severe autistic person" could tell if another person is autistic. Roof also said the question for him now is whether he can keep the record sealed as time passes, "especially with his state trial coming up," the report states.

Roof told Ballenger the plan for the penalty phase of the federal case was to call no witnesses and have no cross-examination, but that if witnesses were called, there were things previously said that Roof would want to cross-examine them about, the report states.

"He stated that he was planning to do opening and closing statements and 'my kind of defense,'" the report states. "He said the closing would be dramatic, but that he couldn't tell me about it. However, both would be 'good.'"

Roof wanted to 'preserve his reputation'

Roof complained to Ballenger that his lawyers were "projecting" their feelings of what they think is important rather than focusing on what Roof himself considered important, the report states.

"They think he should primarily fight for his life and that be his number one priority, and he disagrees," Ballenger wrote.

Ballenger's report states Roof claimed to have only two options: death and life in prison and that Roof considered both "equally bad."

"That is why preserving his reputation is the most important issue for him, not whether he receives the death penalty of life in prison," the report states.

Ballenger reported that Roof began listing the pros and cons of both potential sentences.

Life in prison, Roof said, had the difficulty of no appeals, and the only advantage he could think of in a death sentence was in knowing what prison he would go to. He couldn't come up with cons for the two, stating they were "actually quite similar to him and equally bad."

"He stated that if his reputation was ruined, as he had stated to me in his previous examination, that his 'life would be ruined,'" Ballenger wrote. "He continues to feel that the only thing that is important to him is to protect his reputation."

Roof took issue with Ballenger's earlier report that claimed that Roof's concerns with mental health diagnoses were based on the potential that they could cause problems for Roof in a future white nationalists' world. Roof told the doctor the concern wasn't about that, but that the diagnoses themselves were untrue. However, a second issue was that he did not want any issue to "take away from the rationale he had for committing his crimes," the report states.

Ballenger reported that Roof went through the list of diagnoses and agreed that he suffers from Social Anxiety Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, but that the two had a "small disagreement" about whether Roof had a mixed substance abuse disorder.

"His principal disagreement was whether or not he had Schizoid Personality Disorder," the report states. "He stated that he had Avoidant Personality Disorder and disagreed with the Schizoid Personality Disorder because he had read the DSM-V Manual and read that magical thinking was part of the Schizoid Personality Disorder diagnosis."

Roof said the best way he found to explain his thinking is the analogy of his being a Jihadist, asking why his attorneys would think he would want "a Jewish woman" from the Southern Law Institute to testify for him.

"She is someone who works against the white nationalist movement and is 'Jewish on top of that,'" Ballenger wrote, quoting Roof.

He said Roof also claimed he "can't win" about whether he stares at people in court or stares down at the floor, the report states.

"When he did stare at witnesses, the press commented that it was not right for him to look at victims," Ballenger wrote. "He stated that he feels it is not right for him to look at the victims because 'I killed their son,' etc. but if he looks down, he is also criticized for that."

He claimed his lawyers had tricked him and manipulated him, accusing them of "grasping at straws," the report states. Ballenger reported that Roof claimed he "hated" his attorney, David Bruck, and if Roof were ever out of prison that he would try to kill Bruck.

After a second interview the following day, Ballenger ultimately determined there had been "no change" in the earlier findings of competency, stating Roof was "fully capable" of cooperating and helping his attorneys, but was choosing not to because he disagrees with them. Ballenger disagreed with a defense argument that Roof's "seeming lack of self-preservation" was a sign of incompetence; rather, he wrote, Roof was "indifferent" because he sees little to no difference between a life sentence and a death sentence, which left him "only one motivation that matters to him and that is to preserve his reputation," Ballenger wrote.

Roof was convicted in the deaths of Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41; 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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