Dylann Roof requests new attorneys, declaring appeal team his biological enemies

Death row letter cites ‘constant source of conflict’ during federal trial

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Dylann Roof appears in a Charleston courthouse moments before pleading guilty to state charges for the murder of nine black parishioners at Emanuel AME Church - GRACE BEAHM/POST AND COURIER
  • Grace Beahm/Post and Courier
  • Dylann Roof appears in a Charleston courthouse moments before pleading guilty to state charges for the murder of nine black parishioners at Emanuel AME Church
From federal death row in Terre Haute, Ind., Dylann Roof has filed a request with the Court of Appeals to have his appointed counsel replaced due to their ethnicity.

The avowed white nationalist was sentenced to death in a Charleston federal court in January for the murder of nine black parishioners at Emanuel AME Church. Roof’s motivation for the killings were grounded in a desire to ignite a race war, which ultimately resulted in hate crime charges.

Citing previous conflicts with his attorneys during his federal trial, Roof has asked that his current court-appointed attorneys be replaced as the appeals process remains in its early stages.



“My two currently appointed attorneys, Alexandra Yates and Sapna Mirchandani, are Jewish and Indian, respectively. It is therefore quite literally impossible that they and I could have the same interests relating to my case,” Roof wrote in a motion filed with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va. “Trust is a vital component in an attorney client relationship, and is important to the effectiveness of the defense. Because of my political views, which are arguably religious, it will be impossible for me to trust two attorneys that are my political and biological enemies.”

Following a series of competency hearings leading up to his federal trial, Roof was allowed to represent himself during the sentencing portion of the trial. In April, unsealed court documents revealed the obvious strain that existed between Roof and the team appointed to defend him, led by renowned capital case attorney David Bruck.

“My lawyers have purposely kept me in the dark about my defense until the last minute in order to prevent me from being able to do anything about it, which is why I have been forced to write to you,” Roof said in a prison letter mailed to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charleston before his trial began. “Throughout my case, they have used scare tactics, threats, manipulation, and outright lies in order to further their own, not my, agenda.”

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel would later deem Roof fit to stand trial, but not until after undergoing multiple court-ordered mental evaluations during which he further explained his possible reasons for refusing an insanity plea and hinted at a concern over his reputation among other white supremacists.

“He agreed with Dr. Ballenger’s observation that his goal is not to avoid the death penalty but to protect his ideological motives for his crimes, which he believes a mental health mitigation defense would bring into question,” Judge Gergel wrote in January. “He elaborated that ‘nobody likes me, including other white nationalists, but in my view, what my lawyers wanted to do is — I have like a corpse of a reputation, and they want to burn it.’”

According to court documents filed by Roof’s defense team prior to his sentencing, Roof threatened Bruck, saying that he would murder the attorney if he ever escaped prison. In Roof’s letter to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals filed Monday, he referred back to the “barrier to effective communication” that existed between himself and Bruck and cited a different source of his resentment during the federal trial.

“The lawyer appointed to represent me at my federal trial was David Isaac Bruck, who is also Jewish. His ethnicity was a constant source of conflict even with my constant efforts to look past it,” Roof wrote.

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