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Charleston Church Shooter Dylann Roof Appeals to Have His Death Sentence Overturned

Olawale Ogunjimi
May 25, 2021
07:15 A.M.
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After spending four years in federal prison, Dylann Roof, the young man who killed nine people in a church in Charleston, South Carolina, appealed to have his death sentence overturned.

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In 2015, Dylann Roof was a 21-year-old man when he walked into a church in Charleston's Mother Emanuel AME Church in South Carolina. He spent five minutes in the ongoing Bible study before opening firearms on the congregation.

He took the lives of nine Black individuals, including a reverend, a politician, the church's pastor, a librarian, the church's sexton, a school's track coach, and an upcoming poet.

Charleston shooting suspect Dylann Roof is escorted from the Shelby Police Dept. on Thursday, June 18, 2015 | Photo: Getty Images

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Prosecutors stated that he chose the South's oldest church for the crime. Roof later confirmed to the officers who arrested him that he wanted to be the pioneer of a race war.

The shooter was given a death sentence in a federal prison in 2017, establishing a record as the first human sentenced to die in jail over a federal hate crime. He was prosecuted on 33 counts.

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Roof ended up pleading guilty to all the state's counts, including three counts of attempted murder and nine counts of murder. Recently, however, his attorneys have come out with an argument to overturn this sentence. 

Oral arguments in the case are scheduled to be held today. The procedure will be supervised by a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia.

At the time of his sentence, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel held two competency hearings.

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In a voluminous content, the defendant's lawyers asked that an appellate court overturn their client's convictions and sentence or forward his case to a court for a more competent evaluation.

They posited that it was not a fair trial, neither was it based on the standards of a federal death sentence. In addition, the attorneys maintained that Roof was suffering from schizophrenia and other psychological illnesses.

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They also believed he should not have been declared fit to represent himself. That was not all; according to the documents, the shooter had been labeled delusional.

This is after a team of defense experts agreed that the young man was not aware of the magnitude of the death sentence. He also believed the victors of a race war would rescue him.

At the time of his sentence, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel held two competency hearings for the defendant to determine if he could stand as his lawyer.

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One was before the commencement of the trial, and another was before its sentencing phase. Moreover, Roof had represented himself, showed no remorse, and confirmed that he was mentally fit.

Survivors from the shootings have explained how traumatic the experience had been. Felicia Sanders, a survivor, admitted that she advised her granddaughter to play dead and was scared to death.

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