Accused S.C. Church Gunman Allowed to Rehire His Lawyers

CHARLESTON, S.C. (CN) – A federal judge on Monday told the white man accused of killing nine black parishioners at a church that he can rehire his lawyers — at least for the first phase of his trial.

Last week, Dylann Roof, 22, fired his court-appointed attorneys and asked U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel to allow him to represent himself at his federal murder trial.

Gergel advised Roof he was being ‘”unwise,” but said the law prevented him from rejecting such a request.

Since then, his former legal team has repeatedly sought to play a larger role in his defense, arguing in court filings last week the case was too complicated to be handled by a “ninth-grade dropout with a GED,” and warning that because Roof knows nothing about the law, he could easily neglect to present evidence that might spare his life.

Roof evidently found that latter argument persuasive.

Over the weekend, he asked Gergel if he could use his court-appointed attorneys during the guilt phase of the trial, but still be his own lawyer during the penalty phase.

On Monday, Gergel agreed but told Roof he can’t change his mind again.

Prosecutors say Roof killed the parishioners in a racially motivated attack at the Emanuel AME Church in June 2015.

After an hour of Bible study and prayer, authorities say Roof hurled racial slurs during the shooting and left three people alive so they could tell the world the killings were because he hated black people.

Final jury selection and opening statements in Roof’s federal trial on 33 federal charges, including murder, hate crimes and obstruction of the practice of religion, are scheduled to begin Wednesday.

He also faces a death penalty trial on state murder charges.

Monday saw a flurry of motions and orders filed in the case, most of them sealed.

Among them was a clarification from Gergel, who previously issued an order that crime scene photographs other materials related to the victims would not be made available for distribution.

On Monday he revised the order noting that prosecutors had not asked for the material to be sealed.

“Members of the public will be able to view the evidence in open court and hear any testimony regarding it,” Gergel wrote, noting that no member of the public or the media has objected to the prosecution’s request.

Gergel also rejected a request from Roof’s court-appointed attorneys in his upcoming state trial for access to materials the federal court has placed under seal.

Gergel held that the attorneys are not counsel of record in the federal case and ordered that their motion be stricken from the record.

He concluded by advising them they must seek leave of the court before filing any additional motions.