The conviction of South Carolina church shooter and white supremacist Dylann Roof wasn’t the end of the story. There is a lengthy and predictable appeals process to play out long before his eventual execution. The first round didn’t go so well for him, and this week his attorneys were back in court to give it another shot. (Associated Press)
A white supremacist petitioned a court for mercy, asking the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday to overturn his conviction and death sentence for killing nine black worshippers in a racist attack at a Charleston church.
The notice filed by attorneys for Dylann Roof was an expected move in what’s expected to be years of appeals in his federal case. Earlier this month, the federal judge who presided over Roof’s trial rejected his first appeal, ruling that the conviction and death sentence for the June 2015 massacre at Emanuel AME church should stand.
As the AP article reminds us, Roof was attempting a rather routine appeal on the first go-round, arguing that he shouldn’t have been charged with a federal crime. And in reality, his argument actually had some merit. The shooting was in South Carolina, he’s a resident of the state, he bought the weapons and ammo he used in the state and didn’t cross state lines to commit the crime. But those arguments rarely go anywhere. The judge said that he’d used a phone and GPS as part of the attack (kind of dubious,but okay) and that the ammunition had been manufactured in another state. Even I’ll admit that those are some fairly sketchy arguments in terms of federal authority over the state, but justice had to be done and he would have been convicted on state charges anyway so it’s rather academic.
What’s more confusing is Roof’s reason for dragging out his appeals as long as possible, which he freely admits he is doing. According to his attorney, the maniac claims to believe that help is on the way and he will not only be exonerated, but will eventually be the Governor of South Carolina.
With the passage of time, Roof said, he expected white supremacists to take over the U.S. within several years, pardon him for the killings and make him governor of South Carolina.
“He has no intention of waiving his appeals because this will give enough time for the world to turn upside down,” defense attorney David Bruck said, according to a court transcript.
There’s no timeline for Roof’s federal appeal. He remains in custody on federal death row in Terre Haute, Indiana.
What’s going on here? I suppose one possibility is that his legal team is trying to resurrect the idea that Roof is insane and shouldn’t have been convicted because of that. But that’s not generally how this works. The killer went to great lengths at trial to insist that he absolutely wasn’t insane and knew precisely what he was doing. But could he really be this delusional? His attempts to begin a race war fell spectacularly flat, but perhaps he honestly believes that it’s still going to break out at any minute. And in this fantasy world I suppose he might see himself as some sort of hero who will be freed from prison and carried off to the Governor’s mansion on the shoulders of his grateful supporters.
That still shouldn’t count for being insane in the way that’s required for some sort of reversal of his conviction. I think we all knew that Roof was crazy, but to repurpose a line from Whoopi Goldberg, he’s not “crazy crazy.” Obviously anyone who would shoot up a church is nuts, but he wasn’t disconnected from reality, unaware of what he was doing or unable to understand the consequences. He’s made that much clear repeatedly. What we need to do now is just sit back and wait for all the appeals to (hopefully) fail. The only thing that might save him now is if South Carolina eliminates the death penalty. There’s been some talk about it and it would be similar to the situation which leaves Charles Manson alive to this day. But Dylann Roof alone should be a good enough argument to keep it on the books for the foreseeable future.