Dylann Roof plans to give opening statement, will not call witnesses in sentencing trial

Trial resumes Jan. 3

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Dylann Roof enters Emanuel AME Church on June 17, 2015 - SCREENSHOT
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  • Dylann Roof enters Emanuel AME Church on June 17, 2015
Dylann Roof announced Wednesday that he has no plans of presenting evidence or calling witnesses during the sentencing phase of his federal trial. The 22-year-old was found guilty on all 33 counts of an indictment that included hate crime charges in December. With the trial set to resume on Jan. 3, 2017, Roof faces the possibility of life in prison without the possibility of release or the death penalty for the murders at Emanuel AME Church.

Wearing a baggy, gray-and-white striped prison jumpsuit, Roof appeared engaged during the pretrial conference as attorneys for the prosecution discussed their plans for the next phase of the trial. According to assistant U.S. attorney Jay Richardson, the prosecution has presented a list of victim-related witnesses with approximately 30 names.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel continued to question Roof's decision to represent himself during the trial's sentencing phase, asking that the defendant consult his family and attorneys before the trial resumes. Roof will have until Jan. 3 to change his mind regarding legal counsel.



Although Roof has the right to subpoena witnesses and cross-examine those called to testify by the prosecution, he told the court that he has no plans to call anyone to the stand in his defense. Roof did say that he will give an opening statement when the trial resumes, but his concerns mainly surrounded an as-of-yet unidentified piece of evidence that prosecutors plan to present.

Roof underwent a series of evaluations prior to the initial phase of the trial in preparation for a competency hearing that was seemingly prompted by his decision to serve as his own attorney. The findings of those evaluations have remained under seal. On Wednesday, Roof objected to the mysterious piece of evidence being made public and told the judge that unsealing the evidence from his competency hearing would defeat the purpose of him choosing to self-represent.

Gergel acknowledged Roof's concerns and said that he is still considering when the evidence in question should be unsealed. This decision is made even more complicated, Gergel said, due to Roof's pending state trial, which has been scheduled to begin as early as Jan. 30.

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