Closed competency hearing Monday for Dylann Roof ahead of sentencing

Closed competency hearing Monday for Dylann Roof ahead of sentencing

By MEG KINNARD
Associated Press

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP/WIS) - A competency hearing Monday for convicted Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof was closed to the media.

The federal judge overseeing Roof's trial set the hearing for Monday, a federal holiday, after Roof underwent a psychiatric evaluation over the weekend. Judge Richard Gergel ordered the competency hearing last week. 

The psychiatrist is expected in the hearing Monday.

But the public won't know what's discussed in the hearing until after the jury sentences Roof, because this competency hearing is closed.

Judge Richard Gergel said having the hearing open would prevent Roof's right to a fair trial if jurors were to see news coverage of the hearing but attorney Jay Bender argued on behalf of the media, saying that the hearing should be open so the public is aware of what's happening.

"I think that presumes that the jurors cannot put aside anything that they'd hear outside the courtroom in making their decision, and I think that is inconsistent with what the requirements are for a fair trial. It's not an ignorant jury. It's a panel of jurors who can make a decision based solely on what they hear in the courtroom," Bender said.

The same jury that last month unanimously found Roof guilty in the slayings of nine black parishioners at Emanuel AME church is returning to court to begin contemplating his punishment.

The sentencing phase of Roof's trial begins Tuesday in Charleston. He could face the death penalty.

With Roof representing himself, the process is sure to be unconventional. The 22-year-old said he plans to call no witnesses or introduce any evidence.

Prosecutors plan to call up to 38 people related to the nine people killed and three who survived the June 2015 slaughter during Bible study at Emanuel AME Church.

Even if Roof is sentenced to death, it's highly unlikely he'd be executed anytime soon. The federal government hasn't carried out a death sentence since 2003.

A transcript of the hearing will be released after the sentencing. Judge Gergel said he had considered allowing an open hearing, but argued he would have had to sequester the jurors, causing them stress.

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