CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — A federal judge on Monday allowed a white man accused of fatally shooting nine black parishioners at a Charleston, South Carolina, church to hire back his lawyers, at least for the first phase of his trial.
Dylann Roof, 22, asked U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel over the weekend if he could use his attorneys during the guilt phase, but still be his own lawyer during the penalty phase.
Prosecutors have asked for the death penalty. Such cases are split into two parts: the guilt phase, and then a separate portion that focuses on whether the defendant will be sentenced to death, or life in prison.
Gergel agreed Monday, but warned Roof that he can’t change his mind again. Last Monday, Roof fired his high-powered legal team and handled the selection of a pool of 67 potential jurors himself, a decision the judge called “very unwise” but within Roof’s constitutional rights.
Ever since then, his high-powered legal team has sought to play a larger role in his defense, saying late last week they feared Roof wouldn’t introduce evidence that could possibly spare his life.
Authorities have said Roof killed the parishioners in a racially motivated attack at the Emanuel AME Church in June 2015. After an hour of Bible study and prayer, authorities say Roof hurled racial slurs during the shooting and left three people alive so they could tell the world the killings were because he hated black people.
Final jury selection and opening statements in Roof’s federal trial on dozens of federal charges, including hate crimes and obstruction of the practice of religion, are scheduled to begin Wednesday. He also faces a death penalty trial on state murder charges.
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