The future of the federal trial against accused Emanuel AME Church shooter Dylann Roof remains in question following yet another delay in jury selection.
Just one day after jury selection was postponed while U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel met with Roof and his attorneys for a closed hearing, Gergel issued a motion stating that the defendant’s competency to stand trial has been called into question. Roof faces a possible death sentence for last year’s shooting at Emanuel AME Church that claimed the lives of nine parishioners. Roof must now undergo a competency evaluation, the results of which are expected to be reported to the judge on Nov. 14, followed by a hearing to discuss the findings. Jury selection in the capital trial will remain on hold until Nov. 21.
“The court is mindful that this delay in jury selection may be disappointing to some, but it is the court’s duty to conduct a fair trial and follow procedures which protect the legal rights of the defendant,” states Gergel’s order. “Under the present circumstances, the court finds this brief delay in jury selection to serve the ends of justice.”
Following news of the trial's delay, Jeffrey Robinson, deputy director of the ACLU, released a statement calling on the Department of Justice to abandon the death penalty and accept a guilty plea from Roof. Previous motions filled by Roof’s attorneys have maintained that if federal prosecutors withdraw their demand for the death penalty, Roof will plead guilty to all charges and accept a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of release.
“If the department continues its pursuit of the death penalty, we will not see an end to Roof’s case, not for months or even years. And if a conviction and sentence come at last, they won’t be final, giving way to appeals for the foreseeable future,” says Robinson. “The families of the victims and the rest of the community will remain in limbo for all of that time, keeping Roof and his deeds front and center on our screens and in our minds without closure. For what? For the notion that killing him will somehow show that we as a community are less racist and more just. The Department of Justice should let the guilty plead guilty and send Dylann Roof to prison for life — no appeals, no attention, just a long time to contemplate the horror that he caused.”