CHARLESTON — A federal judge ruled Monday that Dylann Roof, convicted of killing nine people inside an African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina, is mentally competent to represent himself at the sentencing phase of his trial.
That phase is scheduled to begin Wednesday morning. Roof could be sentenced to death.
Roof was evaluated over the weekend by Dr. James Ballenger of Charleston, a specialist in forensic psychiatry, with the results presented in court on Monday.
U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel closed that part of the proceeding to the public, saying he wanted to protect Roof’s right to a fair trial and right to self-representation.
A federal jury convicted Roof on December 15 of all charges stemming from the shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Roof attended a Bible study on June 17, 2015, before pulling out a pistol and killing nine people, investigators said.
Roof carefully planned the killing, investigators said, and chose the church because he wanted to start a race war. Roof is white and all his victims were black.
In a videotaped interview with detectives that was played for the jury, Roof said, “I did it.”
This was Roof’s second competency hearing and was called at the request of defense lawyer David Bruck, who said he’d discovered new facts since Roofs’ first competency hearing.
The first competency hearing was held in November and led the judge to find Roof competent to stand trial. The judge sealed a document with the factual reasons behind his ruling, saying disclosure could hurt Roof’s chances of a fair trial.
CNN’s Darran Simon contributed to this report