Could the U.S. Supreme Court delay the death penalty sentence for convicted Charleston shooter Dylan Roof? Not if the Justice Department has anything to say about it. Attorneys for Roof asked the Supreme Court in March to weigh on an appeal attempt that chronicles disagreements about mental illness evidence. While the sentencing part of Roof’s trial was underway, he fired his entire legal team and elected to represent himself.
The Associated Press notes Roof’s attorneys are arguing this move stopped the jury from hearing evidence of Roof being “under the delusion” that “he would be rescued from prison by white nationalists.” So, the main question they seek to pose to the Supreme Court is whether the client or the lawyer gets to decide what evidence should be introduced at a capital penalty hearing.
However, representatives from the Justice Department are not buying the argument at all. On Wednesday, the DOJ asked for Roof’s death sentence ruling to be upheld, saying there was no merit for the Supreme Court to hear the case, the Associated Press also notes. In the 39-page brief, the DOJ lawyers claim “the ultimate objective of his defense was to avoid the death penalty” and said Roof “was not ... entitled to control his counsel’s strategy for achieving that objective by dictating the mitigation evidence that they could introduce.”
A federal appeals court already upheld Roof’s conviction in 2021, rejecting the notion that the defendant wasn’t competent to stand trial. The judges in that ruling even wrote that Roof’s crimes “qualify him for the harshest penalty that a just society can impose.” If Roof’s legal appeals run out, there’s always a Presidential pardon. I sincerely doubt President Biden will use it.