Potential witnesses in the trial of Dylann Roof who were not allowed to testify would have depicted Roof as a strange loner who signed his name in block letters, fell asleep on the job, stared at the walls when home and worried in a Craigslist post that, "I have no friends even though I am cool," court records unsealed this week show.
They also show that Roof, 22, who insisted on handling his own defense during jury selection as well as the penalty phase of the trial that ended in a death verdict, so frustrated his standby lawyers that they asked the judge after one phase of jury selection to strike the entire panel, complaining that he was ignoring their advice.
U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel denied the motion, which was accompanied by Greenville News articles as exhibits detailing Roof's courtroom behavior.
"The jury selection process in this case has been searching, thorough, and fair," Gergel wrote.
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Gergel also denied the use of the proposed defense witnesses and the proposed cross-examination of an FBI agent. The judge wrote that mental health-related evidence was not admissible in the guilt portion of the trial unless it negated an element of the offense, which he said was not applicable.
Roof was convicted in December in the murders of nine parishioners of the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston in June 2015.
Last month, following a disjointed five-minute closing statement by Roof but no defense witnesses in the penalty phase, a jury sentenced him to death. In December, Roof withdrew a defense team notice that intended to offer evidence of a mental health disease or defect, though records unsealed this week show Roof's lawyers contended that he suffered from autism and the court's examiner found he had multiple mental health disorders or illnesses.
David Bruck and Kimberly Stevens, Roof's defense lawyers, argued in a Dec. 13 motion that a group of defense witnesses should be allowed to testify because they would offer evidence of Roof's demeanor and intent and "must in fairness be admitted to put the government's case and its characterizations of the defendant's behavior in their proper perspective."
"We seek simply to address factors in the defendant's life during those two years that bear on the government's characterizations of his behavior and affect as it relates to his intent to commit the charged crimes," they wrote.
The proposed witnesses included a Columbia banker, who the lawyers said would testify that in interactions with Roof he noticed "unusual behavior, confusion about simple questions and that the defendant signed his name very slowly and printed his name in block letters."
Another proposed witness was a retired child psychologist who would testify, according to the record, that in February 2015 he saw a post on Craigslist by someone later identified as Roof wanting someone to go with him to visit Charleston for a "historical tour."
"The ad said, "No Jews, queers or n-----s," the record states.
The psychologist responded by suggesting Roof look at the world differently and offered to pay him for every TED talk he watched online, according to the record. Roof declined.
"I am in bed, so depressed I cannot get out of bed," the record quoted Roof as saying. "My life is wasted. I have no friends even though I am cool. I am going back to sleep."
The defense also proposed calling some of Roof's past co-workers at a pest-control firm.
One of them would testify, according to the record, that Roof was "often spaced out or zoned out while working." Roof spoke in a monotone and did not smile, kept to himself and wore two shirts and had his pants rolled up at the bottom, the co-worker would testify, according to the motion.
Another would testify, according to the record, that while on the job, Roof "fell asleep virtually anytime he was stationary." The co-worker once asked him if he played video games at home.
"No, I literally look at the walls," Roof was quoted as responding, according to the record.
The defense also proposed to cross-examine the FBI agent to show Roof's state of mind and personal characteristics.
Those include, according to the defense motion, Roof's "well-documented preoccupation with imaginary or exaggerated health concerns, including lymphatic cancer, a thyroid disorder and Hashimoto's disease," and his sudden efforts to reach out to former childhood acquaintances through social media.
"These address intent, because they show his desperation and tenuous connection to reality," the lawyers wrote.
A week earlier, on Dec. 5, the lawyers filed a motion asking Gergel to strike the jury panel at that point.
"The jury selection conducted by the pro se defendant, a 22-year-old high school dropout who frequently ignored the advice of his experienced counsel, should not serve as the basis for choosing the jury in this very consequential trial," they wrote.
The lawyers said that in addition to not being qualified to handle his defense, Roof also exhibited certain behaviors picked up by the press, including The News, including long pauses, stuttering, trouble summarizing his thoughts, repeating questions and inappropriate affect.
Roof was unable to make objections, the lawyers wrote, because of "his unreasonable fear of displeasing the court or of risking embarrassment should his position be rejected." While Roof did lodge objections, the lawyers said for every one he made, several were left unspoken.
It was "telling," the lawyers wrote, that a jury selection process that was expected to take two to three weeks finished after five days.
"While efficiency and speed have their value, we respectfully submit that what occurred here was an uncounseled short-circuit that provides too little assurance of justice," they concluded.
In his order, Gergel referenced an earlier order that explained the issue was not Roof's ability to handle his defense.
"Whereas here a defendant is not suffering from mental illness to the point he is incompetent to conduct trial proceedings, his 'ability to represent himself has no bearing upon his competence to choose self-representation,'" Gergel wrote.