U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel said that Roof is competent, but failed to disclose his reasons for this decision. Gergel wrote that revealing his reasoning could jeopardize Roof’s “right to select a fair and impartial jury and to a fair trial.”
Roof, 22, has been accused of fatally shooting nine people in June 2015, when he allegedly opened fire on a bible study group at a Charleston, South Carolina, church. He allegedly sat alongside his victims for about one hour inside the Emanuel AME Church before opening fire on the parishioners, according to authorities.
Earlier this month, Gergel postponed the jury selection for Roof’s death penalty trial, saying Roof need a competency evaluation.
“An issue has arisen concerning the Defendant’s competency to stand trial,” Gergel wrote in a court order filed on Nov. 8. “Federal law requires the Court to order a competency evaluation of Defendant and to conduct a hearing on the matter.”
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Roof’s competency hearing was scheduled for Nov. 16, but the hearing took place from Nov. 21-22. and the ruling was signed on Nov. 25.
“[The hearing] included the live testimony of [psychiatrist Dr. James C. Ballenger] and four other witnesses and the testimony by sworn affidavits of three additional persons,” Gergel wrote.
Previously, he agreed to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence instead of the death penalty, but prosecutors denied the request. His lawyers challenged the death penalty, calling it unconstitutional, but a judge denied the challenge, according to court records.
Gergel said jury selection is set to begin on Nov. 25.