A federal court denied convicted Charleston shooter Dylann Roof’s request to replace his two defense lawyers, who are Jewish and Indian. Roof called the lawyers appealing against his death sentence his “political and biological enemies.”
Roof, 23, killed nine and wounded three black parishioners at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in June 2015. He told police he wanted to start a “race war.” He was found guilty in December 2016 and subsequently sentenced to death in a federal hate crimes trial.
On Tuesday, the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Columbia, South Carolina issued a one-page ruling dismissing Roof’s motion to replace his two defenders.
“The court denies the motion for substitution of counsel on appeal,” the 11-word ruling said.
Roof had submitted a handwritten appeal to the court on Monday, arguing that he could not trust the two attorneys as they were his “political and biological enemies,” according to AP.
“My two currently appointed attorneys, Alexandra Yates and Sapna Mirchandani, are Jewish and Indian respectively,” Roof wrote. “It is therefore quite literally impossible that they and I could have the same interests relating to my case.”
Yates and Mirchandani were appointed to represent Roof in appealing against his death penalty. Roof represented himself in the sentencing hearings, and during the federal trial had objected to his then court-appointed lawyer, David Bruck, on grounds that he was Jewish.
In the letter to the court, Roof said that Bruck being Jewish “was a constant source of conflict even with my constant efforts to look past it.”
Bruck had based his arguments in Roof’s defence on his client having been influenced by hateful rhetoric online and showing signs of mental illness, but Roof opposed this approach, according to the Charleston Post and Courier.
In a separate state trial, Roof pleaded guilty to nine counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder. He was sentenced to nine terms of life imprisonment in April.