Convicted church shooter Roof picked death over autism label
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Dylann Roof had his first appeal of his death sentence for killing nine people in a racist attack on praying worshippers in a Charleston church rejected Wednesday by the same judge who presided at his trial.
U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel also ordered the release of hundreds of pages of Dylann Roof’s psychological records as well Wednesday.
They included Roof’s insistence he would rather die than have an autism diagnosis made public and he wanted a federal trial so his picture — and what he thought was his unusually large forehead — would be kept off television.
In his first appeal, Roof argued that his crime didn’t fit the definition of interstate commerce needed to make a federal case because he bought the gun and bullets in South Carolina and did not travel out-of-state to the church.
But Gergel ruled Roof used a telephone to call the church, GPS to find it and the bullets and gun were manufactured in a different state.
The 23-year-old white supremacist is expected to file other appeals, something his lawyer David Bruck spoke about in a competency hearing.
“He has no intention of waiving his appeals because this will give enough time for the world to turn upside down,” Bruck said, according to a court transcript.
The newly released documents reinforce how little Roof thought of his victims. He told a psychologist that no one would have paid attention if he killed black criminals, so that’s why he sought out worshippers at a church.
“Why would I be sorry for what I planned and did?” Roof told the psychologist. “You don’t feel sorry for people that you don’t identify with.”
Roof also told his lawyers and psychologists who examined him that he expected white supremacists to take over the U.S. within several years, pardon him for the killings and make him governor of South Carolina.
But during a November competency hearing, Roof told Gergel he figured there was a less than half a percent chance of that happening.
At a different hearing in November, Roof insisted his lawyers not be allowed to publicly say a psychologist found evidence he might have autism. Roof said that would discredit his crime.
“Because once you’ve got that label, there is no point in living anyway. You see what I am saying?” Roof told the judge.
After a federal jury found him guilty of hate crimes and obstruction of religion, Roof took over his own defense and refused to put in any evidence in an attempt to have jurors spare his life. He said he did not want embarrassing information about his family to be made public.
In a pretrial hearing, Bruck gave more insight into Roof’s thinking and why he looked the way he did. The defense lawyer said Roof worried his forehead was too large and unsightly and that’s why Roof kept his bowl-shaped haircut.
Roof was also more comfortable with a federal trial because television cameras were not allowed inside the courtroom, Bruck said.
“He did not want the television camera trained on his face and his forehead for the public and the world to see,” Bruck said. “He could not tolerate the anxiety and distress that that causes. He is on a different planet from the rest of us.”
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