A federal judge ruled today that Dylann S. Roof, who was charged in the massacre of nine black worshippers at a Charleston, South Carolina, church in 2015, can represent himself in his federal death-penalty trial.
The judge, Richard M. Gergel of U.S. District Court in Charleston, called the request by Roof, 22, “strategically unwise,” but allowed him to have a lawyer present as backup.
“I do find defendant has the personal capacity to self-representation,” Gergel said, according to The Post & Courier. He added, “It is a decision you have the right to make.”
Roof had been represented by David I. Bruck, a noted death-penalty lawyer, who slid over from the lead chair after the judge’s decision. The ruling came days after Roof was found competent to stand trial.
The Justice Department is seeking the death penalty for Roof, a self-described white supremacist who is accused of the fatal shootings on June 17, 2015, at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
The charges against Roof include hate crimes resulting in death. The main question in his case has concerned whether he would receive the death penalty in a second phase after a determination of guilt.
Last week, he offered to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence, but prosecutors refused the deal.
Jury selection began on Monday.