Dylann Roof, the 22-year-old white man accused of slaying nine black church-goers at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., is competent to stand trial, a federal judge ruled Friday.
Roof’s lawyers halted jury selection earlier this month, claiming their client lacked the mentally fitness to participate in his own defense. They urged the judge to postpone the trial until such time that medical and psychiatric experts advised that he was competent enough to stand trial.
A psychiatric expert evaluated Roof earlier this month, and submitted an evaluation to the court. He also reviewed several sworn states concerning Roof’s mental state. (RELATED: Prosecutors To Seek Death Penalty For Dylann Roof)
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In his ruling Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Gergel concluded Roof was competent to stand trial.
A criminal defendant is not competent to stand trial only if the Court finds ‘that the defendant is presently suffering from a mental disease or defect’ that renders him ‘unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him or assist properly in his defense.’ The test for competency is whether the defendant ‘has a sufficient present ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding’ and ‘has a rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against him.’”
“After carefully considering the record before the Court, the relevant legal standards and the arguments of counsel, the court now finds and concludes that the defendant is competent to stand trial.”
Gergel will not release most of the facts he reviewed, on the grounds that public disclosure of those documents could jeopardize Roof’s Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights to a fair trial.
Roof faces 33 federal charges: nine counts of violating the Hate Crime Act resulting in death; three counts of violating the Hate Crime Act involving an attempt to kill; nine counts of obstruction of exercise of religion resulting in death; three counts of obstruction of exercise of religion involving an attempt to kill and use of a dangerous weapon; nine counts of use of a firearm to commit murder during and in relation to a crime of violence.
Jury selection will continue Monday, per Gergel’s ruling. If convicted, Roof will face the death penalty.