Church Gunman Tells Judge He Won’t Fight for Life

CHARLESTON, S.C. (CN) – The man convicted of murdering nine black parishioners at a historic Charleston church told a federal judge on Wednesday that he won’t call witnesses or present any evidence to convince a jury not to sentence him to die.

Appearing in court for the first time since he was convicted on Dec. 15 of carrying out the massacre at the Emanuel AME Church in downtown Charleston on the night of June 17, 2015, Dylann Roof reiterated his desire to act has his own attorney in the penalty phase of the trial.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel, who has repeatedly advised Roof to reconsider that plan, did so again on Tuesday, urging the convict to talk to his grandfather, other family members, or the lawyers who represented him in the guilt phase of the trial before it’s too late to change his mind.

“I think [your decision] highlights my advice to you that you aren’t served by being your own counsel,” Gergel said.

Later he told Roof, “don’t do them any favors,” referring to the prosecutors. “They aren’t going to do you any.”

The penalty phase of Roof’s trial starts next Tuesday. The judge has given him until then to change his mind and rehire his attorneys.

The same jurors who convicted Roof earlier this month on 33 counts including murder, hate crimes and obstruction of religion will return next week to decide if he faces life in prison without parole or the death penalty.

Roof spoke only briefly during the 35-minute hearing Wednesday.

Although he said he won’t present evidence when the penalty phase of his trial begins, he did say he plans to make an opening and closing statement.

But what he appeared to be most concerned about during Wednesday’s hearing was a photograph that prosecutors want admitted into evidence next week. U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson did not say what the photograph shows, and Gergel said he will hold a hearing on it before deciding whether it should be admitted.

Roof, standing before the judge in shackles,  said he objects to its being presented to the jury on the grounds that it may bring further embarrassment or distress to his family. Previously, Roof told Gergel he didn’t want his mental health to be considered as a mitigating factor in his crime.

Roof also said he did not want any evidence presented that relates to his mother, and that he wants a jailhouse statement he made to also be ruled out of bounds, although no one in the courtroom said what the statement had been.

Gergel told Roof to go back to jail and write a motion for him to consider.

Prosecutors said they will call as many as 38 people to testify during the penalty phase, most of them relatives of the nine people killed and three wounded during the attack on a Wednesday night Bible study class.

Richardson said he also will call the chief FBI agent on the case to tie up loose ends and refresh jurors’ memories.

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