Convicted murderer and white supremacist Dylann Roof was denied his request to replace his attorneys, who he referred to as his “political and biological enemies” on the basis of their ethnicities.
In a handwritten motion dated Monday Roof wrote, “My two currently appointed attorneys, Alexandra Yates and Sapna Mirchandani, are Jewish and Indian, respectively. It is therefore quite literally impossible that they and I could have the same interests relating to my case.”
“Trust is a vital component in an attorney client relationship, and is important to the effectiveness of my defense,” Roof went on. “Because of my political views, which are arguably religious, it will be impossible for me to trust two attorneys that are my political and biological enemies. The difficulties during my trial are evidence of this.”
The Virginia 4th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a one-sentence response, simply stating, “The court denies the motion for substitution of counsel on appeal.”
Bill Nettles, who served as attorney general for South Carolina from 2010 to 2016, explained to The State that the court’s 11-word response points to the absurdity of Roof’s request.
“The one sentence response from the court was more than the request by Roof deserved,” he said. “This young man is obviously very disturbed. His request is offensive and irrational.”
Also speaking with The State, defense attorney Jack Swerling called the request “almost comical.”
“What the court was basically saying was that Roof’s request has no merit whatsoever,” he said. “Someone’s race and religion has nothing to do with whether that lawyer should be discharged. If it wasn’t so serious, this would be almost comical.”
In his motion Roof also raised concerns over “a barrier to effective communication” and used the example of David Bruck, his attorney during the federal trial who Roof also identifies as Jewish.
“His ethnicity was a constant source of conflict even with my constant efforts to look past it,” Roof recalled in the motion.
Bruck is a well-known attorney who specializes in capital punishment. He assisted during the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the two men responsible for the bombings at the Boston Marathon.
The court appointed Bruck for the penalty phase of Roof’s trial. During a meeting with Bruck on Dec. 3 Roof threatened to kill Bruck, according to the Post and Courier, citing an affidavit the defense team filed in court the following day. Roof reportedly told Bruck he hated him and said “if he gets out of jail, he plans to come to Mr. Bruck’s house and kill him.”
On June 17, 2015, Roof murdered nine parishioners at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, a historically Black church in Charleston, S.C. He was found guilty and in January sentenced to death, which his court-appointed lawyers are currently looking to appeal.
Roof has said on numerous occasions that he does not regret his actions, he does not feel sorry for the victims and he does not believe he is mentally unstable. He vehemently opposes the mental health defense his legal counsel tried to use. According to court documents, Roof said to use a mental disease or defect defense “discredits the reason why I did the crime.”
During the penalty phase of his trial Roof said, “Other than the fact that I trust people that I shouldn’t, there is nothing wrong with me psychologically.”
Roof also kept a journal in jail, in which he expressed his lack of remorse for his crimes.
“I would like to make it crystal clear I do not regret what I did,” he wrote. “I am not sorry. I have not shed a tear for the innocent people I killed.”
Rather, he sympathized with “innocent white children forced to live in this sick country” and “the innocent white people that are killed daily at the hands of the lower race.”
“I have shed a tear of self-pity for myself,” he added. “I feel pity that I had to do what I did in the first place.”