In South Carolina, jury selection has begun in the trial of Dylann Roof. Prosecutors say Roof opened fire at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in June 2015, killing nine black worshipers, including the pastor, Clementa Pinckney. Roof, who is pleading not guilty, embraced white supremacist views and was shown in photographs posing with the Confederate flag and a pistol.

Dylann Roof is facing 33 federal charges in the June 17, 2015, shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church. Results of a competency evaluation were slated to be the topic of a hearing that was pushed back a day.  The court has not yet decided whether the hearing will be open to the public.

The judge in the death penalty trial of Dylann Roof believes it’s possible that he may not be mentally competent to stand trial, according to newly unsealed court documents.  A defense motion unsealed Friday mentions U.S. Judge Richard Gergel’s finding that it’s reasonable to believe Roof “may presently be suffering from a mental disease or defect.” The motion says the judge’s finding doesn’t alter Roof’s constitutional rights.

Gergel ordered another competency exam for Roof earlier this week, one day after halting jury selection, because of the defense motion. He held a hearing with only himself, Roof and defense lawyers present to consider the defense motion.

Gergel plans to rule within days whether Roof is competent and, if so, begin jury selection for Roof’s trial Nov. 21.  If Roof is declared incompetent, he should be transferred to a Bureau of Prisons hospital for further evaluation and treatment “aimed at restoring him to competence,” the motion reads. Roof’s attorneys want the doctor’s report disclosed to them first.  They also want Wednesday’s hearing to be closed and any disputes about the competency finding to be sealed.

The prosecution opposes both requests, saying the “victims should not be held in the dark” and have also asked that the hearing be open to the public.  Roof’s lawyers have said previously that he would plead guilty to the charges in federal court if prosecutors would agree not to seek the death penalty.  State prosecutors also plan a death penalty trial for Roof on nine counts of murder after the federal trial is finished.

Roof is charged with hate crimes, obstruction of religion and other counts in the killings at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Authorities said he sat with 12 people in a prayer meeting for nearly an hour before firing dozens of times, killing nine and leaving three unharmed so they could tell the world the shootings were because he hated black people.

The attack was treated as a hate crime by police and the FBI were called in to assist in the investigation and manhunt.  Roof was caught on surveillance footage distributed to the media as the manhunt unfolded.  At 10:44 a.m., the morning after the attack, Roof was captured in a traffic stop 245 miles from the scene in Shelby, North Carolina.  Police received a tip-off from a driver, Debbie Dills, from Gastonia, North Carolina who recognized him from the news.  His older half-sister also reported him to the police after seeing his photo on the news.

 

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