Crime & Courts

Roof’s attorneys want to know what he told FBI and others about Charleston killings

Roof File photo

Lawyers defending Dylann Roof have filed motions in federal court in which they seek all statements Roof made to others about the June killings of nine African-Americans at a historic downtown Charleston church.

The lawyers also want “an inventory of all tangible evidence in the possession and control of the government, together with a description of the time and date when it was obtained,” according to a motion filed Monday.

Roof, who is 21, white and from the Columbia area, is accused of driving to Charleston on June 17, sitting through a Wednesday night Bible study gathering, then shooting and killing nine black parishioners at the historic “Mother” Emanuel AME church. One parishioner was the church’s pastor, state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, D-Jasper.

Roof faces a 33-count indictment filed July 22 that includes firearms violations and hate crimes resulting in death, some of which make him eligible for the death penalty should he be found guilty. A decision on whether to seek the death penalty by the U.S. Justice Department, which has an extensive review process for death penalty-eligible cases, could take months.

Following his arrest on June 18 in North Carolina, Roof made statements to law enforcement officers implicating himself in the killings, sources have told The State. Roof also wants to plead guilty to the crimes, his lawyers have said in open court.

Roof’s lawyers’ request for an inventory apparently includes lists of items seized pursuant to search warrants for places where Roof lived in Richland County.

Those warrants were executed in mid-June after Roof’s arrest and authorized by Circuit Judge Robert Hood. Hood declined a Freedom of Information request by The State to examine the results; another judge has since barred their release.

Such a request by the defense for potential evidence in criminal cases is normal and, under U.S. Supreme Court rulings about fair trials, prosecutors must turn over all such evidence.

However, in this case, the request by defense lawyers David Bruck, Michael O’Connell, Ann Walsh and William Nettles IV appears unusually thorough, asking even for all “monitored conversations” and requests to see judges’ orders authorizing such monitoring.

Whatever Roof might have told FBI and police in the past, he now is asserting his “Fifth Amendment Right to remain silent and asserts his Sixth Amendment Right to counsel,” according to another motion filed Monday in federal court. “The Defendant does not wish to be questioned in the absence of counsel,” the motion said.

Roof also has been indicted in state court on murder charges in connection with the Emanuel church shootings. Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson has not yet announced whether she will to seek the death penalty.

Although no formal decision has been made to seek the death penalty in either state or federal court, judges in both jurisdictions have appointed death penalty-qualified lawyers at taxpayer expense to represent Roof, who has been found unable to pay for lawyers.

Gov. Nikki Haley has called for the death penalty for Roof, according to court filings.

Bruck told a federal magistrate judge in Charleston last week during a court hearing that Roof wants to plead guilty but is waiting to see what prosecutors do. A magistrate’s judge entered a plea of not guilty on his behalf.

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