Dylann Roof: Mass killer suffers setback in legal bid to avoid execution for hate crime

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The first person sentenced to death for a federal hate crime in the US lost his latest bid to avoid execution for the murder of nine black church members in South Carolina.

A federal appeals court denied a request by Dylann Roof to reconsider its recusal from an appeal of his conviction for the 2015 mass murder.

Defence attorneys wanted judges who recused themselves in May to reinstate themselves for his petition of a new hearing.

With a rule prohibiting judges from other jurisdictions, Mr Roof’s lawyers wrote “no judges exist to consider” the petition, depriving him of “a critical level of appellate review”.

The latest decision 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday comes after they upheld Roof’s conviction in May for the shooting during a Bible study at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Defence attorneys argue his 2017 conviction and nine death sentences should be vacated or sent back to court for a “proper competency evaluation”.

Lawyers have argued that Mr Roof was wrongly allowed to represent himself when he successfully prevented jurors from hearing evidence about his mental health. Mr Roof was acting under the “delusion” that white nationalists would rescue him from prison, “but only, bizarrely, if he kept his mental impairments out of the public record”, lawyers argued.

The trial judge found Mr Roof was competent to stand trial for the shooting, which the 4th Circuit upheld on appeal.

“Dylann Roof murdered African Americans at their church, during their Bible study and worship. They had welcomed him. He slaughtered them. He did so with the express intent of terrorizing not just his immediate victims at the historically important Mother Emanuel Church, but as many similar people as would hear of the mass murder,” the panel wrote in its ruling.

“No cold record or careful parsing of statutes and precedents can capture the full horror of what Roof did. His crimes qualify him for the harshest penalty that a just society can impose,” the judges wrote.

The Independent and the nonprofit Responsible Business Initiative for Justice (RBIJ) have launched a joint campaign calling for an end to the death penalty in the US. The RBIJ has attracted more than 150 well-known signatories to their Business Leaders Declaration Against the Death Penalty - with The Independent as the latest on the list. We join high-profile executives like Ariana Huffington, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, and Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson as part of this initiative and are making a pledge to highlight the injustices of the death penalty in our coverage.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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