Following two days of closed competency hearings, accused Emanuel AME Church shooter Dylann Roof has been found fit to stand trial.
Earlier this month, just as the final stages of jury selection were to begin in Roof's federal trial, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel met with the defendant and his attorneys before issuing a motion stating that Roof’s competency to stand trial had 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.
“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,” stated Gergel’s order, calling for a court-mandated mental evaluation for Roof. “Under the present circumstances, the court finds this brief delay in jury selection to serve the ends of justice.”
Dr. James Ballenger, the court-appointed examiner, completed his report on Nov. 15. A competency hearing was held Nov. 21-22, which included testimony from Ballenger and four other individuals not named in court documents.
According to a motion from Gergel, "the test for competency is whether the defendant 'has a sufficient present ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding" and "has a rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against him." A defendant must have the 'capacity to understand the nature and object of the proceedings against him, to consult with counsel, and to
assist in preparing his defense. A defendant bears the burden of proving he is not competent by a preponderance of the evidence."
After examining the examiner's report and arguments from attorneys, Gergel concluded that Roof is competent to stand trial, which is set to resume with jury selection on Nov. 28.