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Dylann Roof won't call witnesses during sentencing phase of trial

By Allen Cone
Dylann Roof won't call witnesses during sentencing phase of trial
Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof was convicted by a jury in his federal hate crimes trial on December 15. The sentencing phase of his trial is scheduled to begin Tuesday. Photo courtesy Charleston County Sheriff's Office

CHARLESTON, S.C., Dec. 28 (UPI) -- The man convicted of murdering nine people in a South Carolina church, Dylann Roof, said Wednesday he doesn't plan to call any witnesses in the sentencing phase of his death penalty trial.

Roof, 22, told federal Judge Richard Gergel on Wednesday morning he plans to represent himself and will make an opening statement during the sentencing portion that is scheduled to begin Tuesday. He was found guilty on all 33 counts Dec. 15 in the deaths of nine black worshipers at Charleston's Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. He also was convicted of hate crimes, obstructing religion and firearms violations.

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"As far as I know, I am not intending to offer any evidence at all or call any witnesses whatsoever," he told the judge.

Gergel responded he will give Roof until the start of proceedings to change his mind about using counsel.

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"You know my feeling on this," Gergel said. "I think it's a bad idea."

He also urged Roof to at least speak with his grandfather and former attorneys before reaching a final decision. Roof agreed to do so.

Roof appeared at the hearing in his striped gray jail jumpsuit, handcuffed and shackled at the ankles. His former lead attorney, David Bruck, sat in the lead attorney's chair at the defense table.

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The jury will hear from both sides before deciding whether Roof should be put to death or sentenced to a life prison term.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson told the judge that prosecutors have more than 30 potential witnesses to discuss the impact on victims. Also, they also plan to call the lead FBI case agent. Shooting survivor Felicia Sanders -- who testified earlier in court -- plans to testify in the sentencing phase.

Some mitigating factors for Roof include his age and the fact he previously was not convicted of a crime. He offered to enter a guilty plea in exchange for life in prison without the possibility of release, but the prosecution pushed for the death penalty.

Prior to the shooting at the church, Roof posted photos of himself online holding weapons, and wearing or holding white supremacy imagery. He also posted a racist manifesto online.

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