Judge orders psychiatric exam for South Carolina church shooter

(REUTERS) A federal judge on Thursday (Dec. 29) ordered a psychiatric examination for Dylann Roof, days before he is to represent himself as jurors hear evidence about whether he should be executed

(Reuters) A federal judge on Thursday (Dec. 29) ordered a psychiatric examination for Dylann Roof, days before he is to represent himself as jurors hear evidence about whether he should be executed for the June 2015 massacre at a Charleston, South Carolina, church.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel said in an order he was requesting the evaluation and would hold a second competency hearing “in an abundance of caution” after Roof’s standby lawyers filed a motion about his mental fitness to stand trial.

The motion was sealed, but Gergel said defense lawyers stated it was spurred by facts developed since an initial competency hearing was held in November at their request ahead of the guilt phase of Roof’s trial.

The defense lawyers were not immediately available for comment.

Jurors on Dec. 15 found Roof, a 22-year-old avowed white supremacist, guilty of 33 charges of federal hate crimes resulting in death, obstruction of religion and firearms violations stemming from the shooting deaths of nine people attending a Bible study at a historic black church.

At a hearing on Wednesday, Roof told Gergel that he planned to make an opening statement to jurors when the penalty phase begins next Tuesday but would present no evidence or witnesses.

Roof now will be evaluated over the weekend and a competency hearing is set for Monday, the judge said in his order.

Gergel also said he was considering closing the hearing to protect Roof’s right to a fair trial but so far saw no reason to delay the sentencing trial.