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Charleston church shooter appeals US death penalty

White supremacist Dylann Roof, who carried out a massacre against nine black churchgoers in South Carolina in 2015, is appealing his death penalty sentence, which lawyers say did not take into account his mental illness.

White supremacist Dylann Roof, who carried out a massacre against nine black churchgoers in South Carolina in 2015
White supremacist Dylann Roof, who carried out a massacre against nine black churchgoers in South Carolina in 2015 (Chuck Burton/AP Photo)

The shooter, a high school dropout who was 22 years old at the time of the mass murder, was allowed to defend himself despite being diagnosed with “schizophrenia spectrum disorder, autism, anxiety and depression,” his lawyers argued in an appeal filed Tuesday.

Roof had dismissed his trial attorneys in order to prevent his psychological disorders from coming to light.

He also called no witnesses and offered no evidence under the belief that “white nationalists would free him from prison after an impending race war” triggered by the massacre, the appeal said, citing experts who had taken part in the investigation.

His lawyers argue that the federal court had allowed the experts’ testimony to be excluded in order to “rush to move the case along” and that prosecutors were therefore able to portray Roof as “a calculated killer with no signs of mental illness.”

Roof was sentenced to death in federal court in January 2017, following conviction on 33 federal charges — including hate crimes resulting in death — in connection with the shooting spree.

After careful preparation, Roof attended a Bible study group at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, opening fire as the members were beginning their closing prayer. AFP

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