CHARLESTON, S.C. — Attorneys for the man accused of slaying nine black people during a Bible study at a South Carolina church said Tuesday they planned to call witnesses to testify in his defense after all.
Last week, David Bruck had said he didn’t plan to put up much of a defense of Dylann Roof, saying the facts of the case are largely undisputed. But before jurors returned to court Tuesday, Bruck told U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel he planned to call “several” witnesses. He did not specify who.
Roof, who is white, faces 33 federal charges, including hate crimes and obstruction of the practice of religion. Roof’s attorneys have said repeatedly in both federal and state court that their 22-year-old client is willing to plead guilty if capital punishment is taken off the table, a request prosecutors have refused. Roof faces another death penalty trial next year in state court.
Jurors have heard five days of testimony from prosecutors’ witnesses, including law enforcement agents, forensic examiners and tech experts. An employee of Garmin, the company that made a GPS found in Roof’s car, testified Tuesday that data from the device show he rode by the church in months leading up to the shootings. Timestamps from the device showed his car arrived at the church at around 7:45 p.m. the night of the shootings and left more than an hour later.
Justin Britt, a Richland County sheriff’s deputy, testified that Roof’s mother collapsed when authorities came to her home the day after the shootings and started asking questions about her son. After recovering, Britt said Roof’s mother led him to her son’s bedroom, where she showed him a digital camera on which Britt said he saw pictures of Roof with a Confederate flag.
“She said, ‘There’s something that I think you need to see,’” Britt testified.
Another officer who helped search the home testified she recovered dozens of spent ammunition rounds, saying relatives told her Roof and others would practice shooting in a nearby wooded area. Kristen Polis also testified she photographed a white pillowcase cut into a triangle because “to me, it represents what could be a Ku Klux Klan hood.”
Prosecutors have said they could wrap up their case as early as Wednesday. Late Monday, Gergel ruled Roof’s attorneys couldn’t present evidence related to their client’s mental health during the guilt phase of his trial, saying it was more appropriate for the penalty phase.
If Roof is convicted, jurors would decide if he should be sentenced to life in prison or the death penalty. While he has a defense team at the moment, Roof has said he wants to be his own lawyer for the penalty phase.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson opened his case with Felicia Sanders, a survivor of the June 2015 shooting at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church. He has said he plans to close with testimony of another survivor, Polly Sheppard.