Judge rules Dylann Roof competent to stand trial during sentencing phase
Dylann Roof

via WMBF:

CHARLESTON, S.C. -- (WMBF) -- U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel has ruled that Dylann Roof is competent to represent himself during the sentencing phase of the trial.

This comes after the second closed-door competency hearing which was held on Monday in which the court heard more than seven hours of testimony.

The penalty phase will start on Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. when the jury is expected to hear opening statements from the prosecution and Roof.

Roof faces life in prison or the death penalty for the killings of nine churchgoers at Emanuel AME Church.

Roof was convicted in December on 33 federal charges in the June 17, 2015, shooting that killed nine people at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.

The sentencing phase was supposed to start on Tuesday, but Roof asked for a one day delay.

According to court documents, Roof asked for the delay because he was required to devote a great portion of the prior several days to the court examination and competency hearing which was held on Monday.

On Monday morning, Gergel ruled that the competency hearing would be closed despite 30 minutes of objections, saying having it open would prevent Roof’s right to a fair trial if jurors were to see news coverage of the hearing.

The judge says a transcript of the hearing will be released after the sentencing which is predicted to last 10 days.

Gergel said he considered allowing an open hearing and sequestering jurors, but said he was concerned that would stress them.

Roof's standby counsel filed a motion asking the judge for a new mental evaluation late last week. That evaluation was the second conducted on Roof. His attorneys told the court new facts have emerged since the last competency hearing, but it is not clear what those facts are.

The new competency exam was conducted over the New Year's weekend.

Roof's previous competency hearing was closed to protect his right to a fair trial before jury selection, the judge said.

Gergel also issued an order Monday afternoon barring Roof from attempting to approach the jury, the witness stand or the bench during the sentencing phase.

In addition, Gergel specified the sitting arrangements for Roof and his standby counsel, with Roof sitting at the third seat from the center aisle and his counsel sitting in the first and second seats.

The order specifies that if Roof needs to give a document to a witness or the Court, he will "alert" the Court, and the courtroom staff will transfer the document from the lectern to the witness stand or to the court.

FULL STORY: Judge rules Dylann Roof competent to stand trial during sentencing phase - WMBF