Court denies Dylann Roof’s request for new appellate hearing

Meg Kinnard Associated Press
Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Dylann Roof has lost the next phase of his appeal, with a federal court turning down his request for a new hearing to challenge his death sentence and conviction in the 2015 racist slayings of nine members of a Black South Carolina congregation.

In an order issued Monday, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrote that it was denying Roof’s request for a hearing before a full appellate court, as well as his petition that a court of substitute judges from other circuits be designated to consider his case.

All of the judges from the 4th Circuit, which covers South Carolina, have recused themselves from hearing Roof’s case, thus adding an uncommon wrinkle to the flow of his appeals process. One of their own, Judge Jay Richardson, prosecuted Roof’s case as an assistant U.S. attorney.

Richardson led the case against Roof in 2017, when he became the first person in the U.S. sentenced to death for a federal hate crime. Authorities have said Roof opened fire during the closing prayer of a Bible study at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, raining down dozens of bullets on those assembled. He was 21 at the time.

In his appeal, Roof’s attorneys argued he was wrongly allowed to represent himself during sentencing, a critical phase of his trial. Roof successfully prevented jurors from hearing evidence about his mental health, “under the delusion,” his attorneys wrote, that “he would be rescued from prison by white-nationalists — but only, bizarrely, if he kept his mental-impairments out of the public record.”

In May, a panel composed of judges from several other appellate circuits heard Roof’s case. Three months later, those judges rendered their decision, unanimously upholding his conviction and death sentence and issuing a scathing rebuke of Roof’s crimes.

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