For most of the trial, Roof has sat with his face down, staring at his hands
Facing the possibility of the death penalty or life in prison, Dylann Roof is expected to address the courtroom Wednesday morning as the sentencing phase of his federal trial commences. The 22-year-old white supremacist was found guilty on murder and hate crime charges on Dec. 15 after only two hours of jury deliberations. Those same 12 men and women who unanimously agreed upon Roof’s guilt will return to a Charleston courtroom once more to decide his fate.
Ignoring the advice of U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel and his standby attorneys, Roof once again insisted upon representing himself during the final phase of the trial. After being found guilty, Roof took time during a conference hearing in late December to announce to prosecutors that he had no intentions of calling witnesses or presenting evidence. While Roof clarified that he simply wanted federal attorneys to know his plans during the trial, Judge Gergel responded by telling Roof, “Don’t do them any favors. They’re not going to do you any.”
Roof’s behavior in the courtroom that day resulted a second closed competency hearing to determine if he was fit to serve as his own attorney. Roof was examined for approximately five hours over the weekend leading up to Monday’s day-long hearing — after which, he once again deemed ready to stand trial.
If sentenced to death, Roof will join the more than 60 inmates currently awaiting execution following federal charges. According to the 2016 year-end report from the Death Penalty Information Center, the number of executions continues to decline in the United States, with 20 executions being carried out by five states in 2016 — the lowest number of executions nationwide since 1991. Roof also faces state charges for his killings at Emanuel AME Church, and prosecutors have made clear their intentions to seek the death penalty in that trial.