White supremacist Dylann Roof, who is responsible for taking the lives of nine Black worshippers in the 2015 mass shooting of the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston appealed his convictions and death sentence on Tuesday, the AP reports. Roof’s lawyers are claiming that the 25-year-old who insisted on representing himself and refused to let his defense team argue that he suffered from mental illness, is now asserting that he was mentally ill when defending himself at his capital trial in 2017. His attorneys have said that the court overlooked evidence to prove that Roof was diagnosed with “schizophrenia-spectrum disorder, autism, anxiety, and depression,” which “tainted” his sentencing.
Roof’s lawyers have exhibited White privilege in its’ truest form, arguing that U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel should not have allowed the then-22-year-old to defend himself because he was a ninth grade dropout “who believed his sentence didn’t matter because white nationalists would free him from prison after an impending race war.”
His trial attorneys are also claiming that Roof is “disconnected from reality” and that “prosecutors told them Roof was a calculated killer with no signs of mental illness. Given no reason to do otherwise, jurors sentenced Roof to death.”
Former MLB player, Chris Singleton who is also the son of one of the Emanuel AME Church shooting victims, is against the appeal, tweeting on Wednesday, “Forgiveness was granted & Justice was served. Let’s keep it that way!”
The avowed White supremacist fired 77 shots during an evening bible study at Emanuel AME Church. He sat in the sanctuary with the worshippers for about 45 minutes and opened fire during the final prayer, while the members’ eyes were closed. According to the AP, Roof, who became the first person ordered to be executed for a hate crime, told prosecutors that he chose that church in particular to implement his heinous crime. He later told FBI agents that his intentions were to revive segregation or start a race war. He was convicted of 33 federal charges, including hate crimes.
In his closing argument, Roof said he felt like he “had to do it.” He added, “Anyone who hates anything in their mind has a good reason for it.” Roof also denied having autism, claiming that he is a “sociopath.”
However, his attorneys are arguing that the court “can have no confidence in the jury’s verdict.”
The appeal is also disputing the statements Roof made during his trial.
In Roof’s attorneys’ 321-page brief, they argued that the trial should not have happened as the state hurriedly brought charges against their client’s “wholly-intrastate crime,” the AP reports.
“Roof believed white nationalists would stage a revolution, establish a new government, and set him free. Roof’s goal was not to secure a life sentence, but to avoid being labeled mentally ill because it would diminish his chance of rescue,” the brief stated.
They added that the trial violated Roof’s constitutional rights by “failing to declare the defendant incompetent, misapplying federal statutes and allowing emotional victim testimony,” according to a report from The Washington Post.
The attorneys are pushing for the court to “vacate Roof’s convictions and death sentence.”
The Department of Justice must respond to the brief by Feb. 18.