Why Dylann Roof may have chosen to represent himself

Dylann Roof
FILE - In this June 19, 2015 file photo, Dylann Storm Roof appears via video before a judge, in Charleston, S.C., Friday, June 19, 2015. Roof is accused of killing nine people inside Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. (Centralized Bond Hearing Court via AP)

Many of you may be wondering why Dylann Roof would want to represent himself even though he is potentially facing the death penalty.

We took that question to the experts to find out if this drastic move is something that could possibly benefit him at trial.

It’s certainly not unheard of for high profile criminals to represent themselves in court, Ted Bundy, Charles Manson and 9/11 co-conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, to name a few.

Now Dylann Roof wants to join that list. And there are a lot of theories on why.

“He’s looking to get attention, yeah, he knows it will be all over the world news,” said Tim Easler in Spartanburg who has been following the case.

“He probably thinks he’s smarter than the prosecutor and so he’s thinking, I can do this,” said Kelley Turner, in Spartanburg.

We asked Attorney Ken Anthony to lay out the most likely theory.

7 News asked Attorney Kenneth Anthony if this move is possibly a way for Roof to try to get out of the death penalty.

“I would think that that’s really what this is about. Again, I’ve had this experience myself. I had a defendant several years ago who wanted to represent themselves. And I think particularly people who have committed an act like this, think that if they can get their message across to the jury that they will understand,” said Anthony.

In other words, Roof may believe the more jurors hear from him, the more sympathetic they may be.

You can also gain privileges behind bars like like access to the jail’s law library and you’re not as bound in court to the lawyers ethical code which means you could delay proceedings by filing lots of extra motions.

Whatever the reason, representing himself is his right under the 6th Amendment, now that he has been declared competent. His previous attorneys will serve as stand-by counsel throughout trial.

But could Roof’s tactics in representing himself set up for a mistrial?

“I think the mistrial is very unlikely. The only errors that could occur in the trial will be ones he creates,” said Anthony.

He says the judge is going to be watching very closely to make sure Roof will have no grounds to declare a mistrial and that his trial is fair.

With the standby council, Roof can look to them for guidance and if he decides to change his mind at any point those lawyers can then take over.

Historically serious offenders who have represented themselves have had no luck winning their case nor evading the death penalty.

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