Prosecutor seeks independent psychiatric evaluation of Dylann Roof

Dylann Roof (center) appears for a July court hearing in Charleston.

Prosecutors asked a judge on Wednesday to approve an independent psychiatric evaluation of Dylann Roof, the man facing the death penalty in last year’s mass shooting at Emanuel AME Church.

Defense attorneys successfully argued last week for a delay in the trial because the examination that they ordered was not yet finished. It could take another six months, they said.

To 9th Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson, the argument made it clear that the defense planned to bring up a mental health condition at Roof’s trial, which is set for Jan. 17. That’s why the prosecution should have a chance to get a separate analysis, Wilson said in a written motion.

It was unknown when Circuit Judge J.C. Nicholson might rule on the request.

Roof, 22, of Eastover is charged with nine murder counts, three counts of attempted murder and a firearms count in the June 17 killings at the Calhoun Street church. Wilson will seek his execution if he’s convicted.

He also faces a trial in federal court, where prosecutors haven’t decided whether to seek the death penalty. Federal authorities have alleged that Roof, who wrote about his white supremacist beliefs, targeted black victims in a hate crime.

In her request this week for a second exam of Roof, Wilson cited a past ruling by the S.C. Supreme Court that said it would be proper to compel the evaluation if the defense plans to introduce mental health evidence during the trial’s penalty phase.

But safeguards must be taken to prevent self-incrimination, the court ruled. One method, Wilson mentioned, is sealing the results of the evaluation until the sentencing phase.

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