Dylann Roof will stand trial for his involvement in the killing of nine black attendees at a South Carolina church in 2015, according to The Los Angeles Times. He is facing the death penalty, and will represent himself in court. Jury selection for the trial started Monday.
U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel delayed the beginning of the trial after Roof’s lawyers said he may not have been competent, meaning he may not have understood his crime and its consequences. He was evaluated by a psychiatrist to test for competency. Gergel finally announced that 22-year-old Roof is competent to appear in court for charges of hate crime and obstruction of religion, among 31 other federal charges, after his deadly actions at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
What remains unknown is why Roof’s competency was questionable. In a two-day, private hearing, Gergel met with only Roof, his lawyer, prosecutors and witnesses, and heard statements by Roof that were directed at a psychologist. These remarks might not be legal to use in court and could affect the jury’s opinions. According to KTLA News, Gergel ultimately sealed the detailed report explaining his ruling of Roof’s mental state.
Even though Roof's competency was questioned, he will be allowed to represent himself in court, Gergel ruled on Monday. The judge told Roof he thought the decision was "strategically unwise" but that he had a right to represent himself as long as it was voluntary, according to NPR. The Associated Press reports that Roof's former lawyer, Attorney David Bruck, will stick around in case Roof asks for help during the trial.
Roof was also found competent in state courts as well. Another death penalty trial is scheduled to start for him in January in South Carolina.