While 68 million people across the nation are living with a criminal record of some kind, Dylann Roof’s alleged crimes are particularly heinous, at least to the members of the African American community at large, and the congregants of one South Carolina church in particular.
Roof, 22, is charged with the killing of nine people on June 17, 2015 at the historic Emmanuel African Episcopal Church of Charleston, S.C. after he entered a private bible study, worshiped for an hour, and then shot nine black parishioners. The Justice Department of South Carolina is seeking the death penalty against the self-avowed white supremacist.
Through his defense lawyers, Roof has offered to plead guilty in exchange for life in prison. His legal team is attempting to bypass the death penalty with the claim that Roof is not mentally fit to stand trial.
However, Judge Richard Gergel decided that Roof is competent enough to go through the court process. Gergel made his announcement after a private two-day hearing, and released his factual findings under closed seal.
The judge did explain to The New York Times that in order to make his decision, he reviewed affidavits from three people, heard witness reports from five survivors, and spoke to the psychiatrist who examined Roof behind bars. In order to declare that Roof was incompetent, Gergel would have had to determine that Roof is presently suffering from a mental disease which would render him unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him.
Gergel used a “preponderance of the evidence” standard to reach his decision, as he believes Roof knew exactly what he was doing when he committed the atrocious act.
Within hours of the shooting, authorities found an online manifesto in which Roof described his racist beliefs and and claimed responsibility for the shootings.
The charges against Roof include hate crimes resulting in death, obstruction of religion and 31 other counts. His trial is scheduled to begin in January 2017.