Dylann Roof's lawyers appeal death sentence citing autism

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ASPartOfMe
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30 Jan 2020, 4:27 am

Dylann Roof’s lawyers appeal death sentence for Charleston church massacre, arguing the trial was ‘tainted’ by mental health issues

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Lawyers for Dylann Storm Roof, who was sentenced to death for killing nine black parishioners in a 2015 mass shooting at a historic Charleston church, appealed the capital penalty and his convictions on Tuesday.

The appellant’s opening brief claims the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina erred when it deemed the self-described white supremacist competent to represent himself. Roof, now 25, refused to allow his trial defense team to argue he suffered from mental illness. But his appellate lawyers now argue that the court ignored strong evidence that Roof showed signs of psychosis, schizophrenia spectrum disorder and autism spectrum disorder.

The gunman, who fired 77 rounds during an evening Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on June 17, 2015, was convicted on 33 counts and was the first person sentenced to be executed for a federal hate crime.

The 321-page brief, filed Tuesday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond by his appellate attorneys, asks the court to evaluate more than a dozen alleged missteps that may have “tainted the trial.” Roof’s lawyers argue that the trial violated his constitutional rights by failing to declare the defendant incompetent, misapplying federal statutes and allowing emotional victim testimony.

“The prosecution’s first witness repeatedly called Roof ‘evil,’ and told jurors to send him to ‘the pit of hell,’” his attorneys said in the brief. Roof’s lawyers argue that the “inflammatory” and “dehumanizing” testimony incurably prejudiced the jury.

“Roof’s crime was tragic, but this Court can have no confidence in the jury’s verdict,” his lawyers argue.

Many of the claims in the appeal contradict Roof’s previous rejection of mental health issues. During the sentencing phase of the 2017 trial, Roof told the jury to ignore any claims his lawyers had made about his mental state.

“There is nothing wrong with me, except logic,” Roof told the jurors, according to the brief.

The defendant resisted the diagnoses that psychologists offered the court throughout the trial. He said autism was for “nerds” and “losers,” according to court documents reported on by The Washington Post in 2017.

“I don’t have autism,” Roof said, according to the records. “I’m just a sociopath.”

But the appeal disputes Roof’s statements during his federal hate-crimes trial and claims he began to mask the depth of his delusions after his attorneys tried to have him ruled incompetent.

“The court clearly erred in finding Roof competent to stand trial and sentencing, and it violated his due process rights by holding inadequate competency hearings,” his appellate lawyers argued in the filing.

The brief claims that U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel from the District of South Carolina ignored testimony from experts who said Roof showed signs of serious mental health conditions. The lawyers argue Gergel should not have allowed Roof to represent himself at various stages of the trial because he suffered from a delusion that “his sentence didn’t matter because white nationalists would free him from prison after an impending race war.”

A court-appointed psychologist interpreted Roof’s indifference to his possible sentence as an extension of his “over-valued racist views,” rather than a delusion.

Roof repeatedly told the court he did not want to employ a defense built on the contention that he suffered from mental illness or cognitive disorders. His lawyers argue in the brief that he did so to protect his reputation in the eyes of a white supremacist rebellion he imagined would bust him out of federal prison.

When Gergel pressed Roof about his theory that the racist leaders of a coup d’etat would stage a prison break, the defendant demurred.

“Anything is possible,” Roof told the court, according to the brief. When Gergel asked Roof how likely an escape was, Roof said the chances were “less than half a percent.”

Ultimately, the federal judge decided that Roof was competent enough for the trial to move forward, and a jury sentenced him to death in 2017 after deliberating for less than three hours.


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naturalplastic
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30 Jan 2020, 5:53 am

I think that he ought to given the noose, after being flogged, just for saying that sociopaths are better than autistics!

But kidding aside..
Apparently, like the Unabomber, Roof would rather die than get off on an insanity plea. But like Kozinski, his lawyers are trying to wrangle an insanity plea for him anyway.

But even if he really were proven to be autistic what does that have to do with his guilt (or lack thereof)?

Autism doesn't interfere with your ability to tell right from wrong.

Having delusions might interfere with your ability to tell right from wrong. But delusions are a symptom of psychosis, and not of autism.

If this becomes a precedent...killers avoiding capital punishment due to autism...that will be a disaster for the autistic community. Autistics should picket and demand the death penalty for him.



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30 Jan 2020, 7:59 am

^ I agree. It is absolutely preposterous.



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30 Jan 2020, 8:02 am

naturalplastic wrote:
I think that he ought to given the noose, after being flogged, just for saying that sociopaths are better than autistics!

But kidding aside..
Apparently, like the Unabomber, Roof would rather die than get off on an insanity plea. But like Kozinski, his lawyers are trying to wrangle an insanity plea for him anyway.

But even if he really were proven to be autistic what does that have to do with his guilt (or lack thereof)?

Autism doesn't interfere with your ability to tell right from wrong.

Having delusions might interfere with your ability to tell right from wrong. But delusions are a symptom of psychosis, and not of autism.

If this becomes a precedent...killers avoiding capital punishment due to autism...that will be a disaster for the autistic community. Autistics should picket and demand the death penalty for him.

Could autism be responsible for his fixation on *white supremacy* ?

Autistic thinking is said to be more rigid, more black and white.


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30 Jan 2020, 9:26 am

His lawyer is grasping at straws.
I hate when people try to label autism as a mental illness.


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30 Jan 2020, 9:29 am

Autism =\= Insanity

Any judges worth their pay should know this.


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30 Jan 2020, 9:46 am

Fnord wrote:
Autism =\= Insanity

Any judges worth their pay should know this.

It's not that simple.

Most autistic people are likely physically and/or mentally tortured by others because of their autism.

Likely, this torture will cause negative consequences in some.


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30 Jan 2020, 9:48 am

No excuse for killing nine people-----no matter how much you have gone through in life.

Even if you've been in a concentration camp and saw hundreds of people being shot, and been shot at yourself.

If you want to know my opinion: I hope this Roof guy rots in prison for the rest of his life.



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30 Jan 2020, 9:58 am

I am not pro the death penalty . I'm glad we don't have it in the UK . The promoting that he killed 9 people due to autism is thoroughly nauseating . Even if he is on the spectrum other factors would have had to come into play to do what he did . Autism alone doesn't make someone a homicidal maniac .


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Fnord
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30 Jan 2020, 10:01 am

TheRobotLives wrote:
Fnord wrote:
Autism =\= Insanity. Any judges worth their pay should know this.
It's not that simple. Most autistic people are likely physically and/or mentally tortured by others because of their autism. Likely, this torture will cause negative consequences in some.
"Negative Consequences" also do not equal "Insanity".

Dylann Roof is the final cause -- he is the only person who killed those others. Blaming schoolyard bullies for his actions is an act of desperation by the defense, like blaming a traumatic experience with a mall Santa at age 3 for one's own suicide at age 30.


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30 Jan 2020, 10:04 am

kraftiekortie wrote:
No excuse for killing nine people-----no matter how much you have gone through in life.

Even if you've been in a concentration camp and saw hundreds of people being shot, and been shot at yourself.

If you want to know my opinion: I hope this Roof guy rots in prison for the rest of his life.


I think that the point of this argument is so he rots in prison slowly instead of being hung, shot, fried, or injected depending on the death penalty procedure for the state.



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30 Jan 2020, 10:07 am

The worst that can happen is that his death sentence will be commuted to life in prison without parole,he won't get off on insanity,you have to be barking at the moon for that to happen.It's his lawyers job to prevent his death sentence and his lawyer is doing his job,there is no slight against the autistic community intended.In America a lawyer must represent his client zealously.
If the lawyer does not try every possible argument to save his clients life from a death sentence than the death sentence could then be overturned because of inefectiveness of council,that is how the system works.


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30 Jan 2020, 10:09 am

I see him getting a lethal injection in about five or so years, after all the appeals have been dried up.

It's standard for there to be appeals in death penalty cases.



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30 Jan 2020, 10:20 am

If autism was the cause of obsession with white supremacy there would be a lot less obsessed white supremacists.

His racism is the cause of his racism.

Autism at most may influence how interests are pursued. See Adam Lanza’s spreadsheet listing every mass school shooting going back to the 1800s.

Any diagnosis come by a defense lawyer hired psychologist needs to be treated with suspicion.

If he was bullied it was not by the people he murdered.

The Autism defense is used way to often and is hurting autistic people by creating yet another stereotype.


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30 Jan 2020, 10:22 am

ASPartOfMe wrote:
... The Autism defense is used way to often and is hurting autistic people by creating yet another stereotype.
The gun-toting sociopathic narcissist with a grudge against humanity ... ?


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30 Jan 2020, 10:28 am

I googled "Autism Defense", and the first article that popped up was this one...

There Is No Autism Defense

Troy Earl Camplin wrote:
The fact of the matter is that autistic people can control their conscious actions just as much as any typical person. True, there are those who have meltdowns, particularly young autistics, but they are triggered, sudden, and suddenly over. They do not involve planning. In other words, while it may be possible that an autistic person could commit such an atrocity, they did not commit such an atrocity because they are autistic. We are responsible for these kinds of conscious actions.


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