Dylann Roof’s death sentence should stand, prosecutors say

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Federal government lawyers opposed Dylann Roof’s request for a new appeal hearing, arguing the South Carolina man was properly convicted and convicted of the racist murders of nine members of a congregation black in 2015.

In court documents filed Thursday, federal prosecutors argued that a panel of three judges from the U.S. 4th Court of Appeals rightly ruled last month that the government had proven its case against Roof, despite his protests on several points.

“The court rulings were correct and there is no reason to review them,” federal prosecutors wrote.

RELATED: Federal Court of Appeal upholds Dylann Roof’s death sentence

In 2017, Roof became the first person in the United States to be sentenced to death for a federal hate crime. Authorities said Roof opened fire during the closing prayer of a Bible study at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, raining dozens of bullets on those gathered. He was 21 at the time.

In his appeal, attorneys for Roof argued that he was wrongly allowed to represent himself in sentencing, a critical phase of his trial. Roof succeeded in preventing jurors from hearing any evidence of his sanity, “under the illusion,” his lawyers wrote, that “he would be saved from prison by white nationalists – but only, oddly, if he kept his mental disorder beyond the reach of public record. “

The 4th Circuit panel first concluded that the trial judge had not erred in finding Roof to have jurisdiction, unanimously upholding his conviction in August and issuing a scathing reprimand for the crimes of Roof.

“No cold recording or careful analysis of laws and precedents can capture the full horror of what Roof did,” the judges wrote. “His crimes qualify him for the harshest sentence a just society can impose.”

RELATED: Jurors convict Dylann Roof on all counts in church murders

Earlier this month, Roof filed a request for the court to consider his appeal, arguing that the judges’ ruling interpreted too broadly the trade clause of the US Constitution, which allows Congress to regulate interstate commerce. .

Accepting the government’s argument that a combination of factors, including Roof’s use of the Internet to publish his opinions and research the church, constituted “interstate commerce,” Roof attorneys wrote , the panel’s decision amounted to “an amorphous, unprecedented and comprehensive standard for the federal jurisdiction of the Commerce Clause over local crime, thereby nullifying the traditional policing power of states in this arena.”

In their response, government lawyers wrote that the appeals court “made a factual ruling that Roof’s use of the Internet both to select Mother Emanuel as a target and to amplify her offense by publishing her appeal to racist and violent action just hours before the attack “filled the link in the commerce clause.

Dylan Roof (C), the suspect in the shooting that left nine people dead at a Charleston church last month, appears in court accompanied by deputy defensive attorney William Maguire on July 18, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. (Photo by Grace Beahm-Po

If the court gave Roof a full hearing, it remains to be seen who exactly would hear the case. All the judges of the 4th circuit, which covers South Carolina, recused themselves; one of their own, Judge Jay Richardson, pursued Roof’s case as deputy US attorney. The panel that heard the arguments in May and delivered the August decision was made up of judges from several other appeal circuits.

Along with his request for a full hearing, Roof also requested that the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, John Roberts, appoint a panel to consider the request for a new hearing or that the Chief Justice of the 4th Circuit appoint other judges from that district to constitute such a panel. .

If his direct appeal failed, Roof could file what is known as a 2255 appeal, or a request that the trial court review the constitutionality of his conviction and sentence. He could also go to the United States Supreme Court or seek a presidential pardon.

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