Dylann Roof’s Attorneys Argued He Has Mental Disorders: Report

Grace Beahm-Pool/Getty Images
Grace Beahm-Pool/Getty Images

Dylann Roof, the white supremacist who was sentenced to death in the murders of nine black parishioners at a historic black church in Charleston, S.C., suffers from several mental disorders, attorneys claimed in an unsealed court document, CNN reports.


According to the network, his legal team filed the document Dec. 6, the day before opening statements were scheduled in his federal trial, in an attempt to secure certain accommodations for Roof.

His lawyers cited a competency hearing in which a doctor noted that Roof has “social anxiety disorder, a mixed substance abuse disorder, a schizoid personality disorder, depression by history and a possible autistic spectrum disorder.”

Roof’s lawyers argued that the listed disorders inhibited Roof’s ability to stand trial, and included effects such as difficulty processing multiple sources of information, an excessive focus on nonessential details, difficulty retaining information when required to focus on multiple things, an extreme need for predictability and routine, anxiety when things can’t be predicted, and a tendency to be easily overwhelmed.

“Without some accommodation,” the lawyers said, “the defendant’s disabilities will impair his ability to participate in his trial,” citing violation of the Fifth, Sixth and Eighth amendments.

In light of Roof’s condition, attorneys requested routine breaks, shortened court days or weeks, two days’ notice before witnesses were called and permission to ask for breaks whenever Roof felt overwhelmed.


Federal Judge Richard Gergel denied all requests, The State notes.

“The court finds no merit in the motion,” he wrote on Dec. 6 before the trial started.


Gergel had previously kept the documents sealed in order to avoid any publicity that could have swayed jurors. In his ruling, Gergel pointed out that during the closed November hearings surrounding Roof’s mental competency, the 22-year-old was “extremely engaged” throughout the two-day process.

Gergel found Roof legally competent to stand trial, represent himself and be sentenced.


In December, Roof asked the judge to reinstate his legal team for the guilt phase of his trial, and then asked to represent himself again during the sentencing phase of his trial. During the sentencing phase of his trial, Roof gave a brief opening statement, telling jurors, “There’s nothing wrong with me psychologically. Anything you heard from my lawyers in the last phase, I ask you to forget it.”

Before he was ultimately sentenced to death in early January, Roof told jurors that he felt he had no choice but to kill the parishioners at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in June 2015.


“In my confession to the FBI I told them that I had to do it, and obviously that’s not really true. ... I didn’t have to do anything,” he said. “But what I meant when I said that was, I felt like I had to do it, and I still do feel like I had to do it.”

Read more at CNN and The State.



I feel some type of way about this. I work for a non-profit that provides substance use services, so we see a lot of individuals with severe co-occurring disorders and primary diagnoses of mental illness (e.g. schizophrenia, psychosis, etc). I’ve seen many individuals who have been overcome with severe mental illness, to the point where they are actively harming others. Others have gone on to lead productive and fulfilling lives because of medication, psychotherapy and a strong peer network. What I hate the most about this is that mental illness is used a scapegoat for heinous actions. I do not think that Roof had any sort of mental illness. I think he was consumed by racism and evil. Plain and simple. It’s like we need to rationalize why he murdered those innocent people and we need to rationalize it by claiming he had a mental illness. No. The fucker was just a murderer, and a racist one at that. That probably goes against everything that I am supposed to believe in as someone who works in social and human service but *SHRUGS*.