Defense confirms plan to show mental defect in Dylann Roof trial

Dylann Roof is shown in a photograph before his June 2015 attack on Emanuel AME Church.

Defense lawyers plan to provide evidence of a mental condition when a federal jury discusses Dylann Roof’s fate, court filings stated Monday.

Roof, who is white, would face the death penalty if convicted of certain charges in the June 2015 shooting deaths of nine black worshippers at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.

In hopes of getting a lifetime prison sentence for the 22-year-old, his defense team can show the jurors evidence of mitigating factors. Monday’s filing confirmed that the attorneys plan to present testimony and documentation of a “mental disease or defect or any other mental condition.”

The development was expected. Lawyers defending Roof from a separate murder case in state court already have said that experts are doing a mental health evaluation. That trial, set to start in January, had been delayed so the examination could be finished.

In U.S. District Court, Roof was indicted on 33 charges, including hate crimes and religion rights violations. The Nov. 7 proceeding could last six weeks. The penalty phase alone could take two weeks.

Prosecutors on Monday also responded to the lawyers’ request for a “bill of particulars,” or detailed statement of the accusations. They asked Judge Richard Gergel to order the filing because, they argued in part, Roof’s indictment didn’t fully explain how the crime was connected with interstate commerce, a component that would make the shooting a federal case.

In the response, Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathan Williams said the indictment already mentioned Roof’s use of the internet, along with the gun and ammunition he bought for the crime. The extra requirement would give the defense a “script” of the prosecution’s case well ahead of the trial, he wrote.

The judge did not immediately rule on the issue.

Reach Andrew Knapp at 843-937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.