United States v. Roof, 17-3

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM.
PartiesUNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. DYLANN STORM ROOF, Defendant-Appellant. AUTISTIC SELF ADVOCACY NETWORK; AUTISTIC WOMEN & NONBINARY NETWORK, Amici Supporting Appellee.
Docket Number17-3
Decision Date25 August 2021

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.

DYLANN STORM ROOF, Defendant-Appellant.

AUTISTIC SELF ADVOCACY NETWORK; AUTISTIC WOMEN & NONBINARY NETWORK, Amici Supporting Appellee.

No. 17-3

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

August 25, 2021


Argued: May 25, 2021

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina, at Charleston. Richard Mark Gergel, District Judge. (2:15-cr-00472-RMG-1)

ARGUED:

Sapna Mirchandani, Greenbelt, Maryland, Margaret Alice-Anne Farrand, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, Los Angeles, California; Alexandra Wallace Yates, Concord, Massachusetts, for Appellant.

Ann O'Connell Adams, Bonnie I. Robin-Vergeer, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Appellee.

ON BRIEF:

Amy M. Karlin, Interim Federal Public Defender, Los Angeles, California, James Wyda, Federal Public Defender, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellant.

Brian C. Rabbitt, Acting Assistant Attorney General, Robert A. Zink, Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division, Eric S. Dreiband, Assistant Attorney General, Alexander V. Maugeri, Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Thomas E. Chandler, Brant S. Levine, Appellate Section, Civil Rights Division, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C.; Peter M. McCoy, Jr., United States Attorney, Columbia, South Carolina, Nathan S. Williams, Assistant United States Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Charleston, South Carolina, for Appellee.

Samantha A. Crane, Kelly Israel, AUTISTIC SELF ADVOCACY NETWORK, Washington, D.C., for Amicus Autistic Self Advocacy Network. Lydia Brown, AUTISTIC WOMEN AND NONBINARY NETWORK, Lincoln, Nebraska, for Amicus Autistic Women and Nonbinary Network.

Before Duane BENTON, Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, sitting by designation, Kent A. JORDAN, Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, sitting by designation, and Ronald Lee GILMAN, Senior Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, sitting by designation. [1]

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. Overview .............................................................................................................. 5

II. Background ........................................................................................................... 6

A. The Crime .............................................................................................................. 6

B. Arrest, Confession, and Evidence Collection ........................................................ 6

C. Indictment and Trial ............................................................................................... 8

D. Appeal .................................................................................................................. 10

III. Issues Related to Competency ............................................................................ 10

A. Competency Background ..................................................................................... 11

1. First Competency Hearing .................................................................................. 12

2. Second Competency Hearing ............................................................................. 19

B. Issue 1: The District Court Did Not Clearly Err in Finding Roof Competent to Stand Trial .......................................................................................................... 24

C. Issue 2: The District Court Did Not Abuse Its Discretion by Granting Only in Part Defense Counsel's Request for a Continuance of the First Competency Hearing ............................................................................................................... 31

D. Issue 3: The District Court Did Not Abuse Its Discretion by Limiting Evidence Allowed at the Second Competency Hearing ..................................................... 33

IV. Issues Related to Self-Representation ................................................................ 36

A. Self-Representation Background ......................................................................... 37

B. Issue 4: Under McCoy v. Louisiana, Preventing the Presentation of Mental Health Evidence Cannot Be the "Objective" of a Defense ................................ 43

C. Issue 5: A Defendant Has a Sixth Amendment Right to Represent Himself During His Capital Sentencing ........................................................................... 48

D. Issue 6: Neither the Constitution nor the Federal Death Penalty Act Requires that Mitigation Evidence Be Presented During Capital Sentencing over a Defendant's Objection ........................................................................................ 53

E. Issue 7: Roof's Waiver of Counsel Was Knowing, Voluntary, and Intelligent .. 58

1. Legal Standard .................................................................................................... 58

2. Roof Was Appropriately Aware of His Role and Responsibilities .................... 59

3. The District Court Need Not Have Informed Roof of the Ability to Selectively Use Counsel for Different Parts of the Case ............................................................. 62

F. Issue 8: The District Court Did Not Err in Granting Roof's Motion to Waive Counsel ............................................................................................................... 63

G. Issue 9: The District Court Did Not Err in Finding Roof Competent to Self-Represent ........................................................................................................... 65

H. Issue 10: The District Court Did Not Err in Denying Roof Further Assistance from Standby Counsel or Additional Accommodations .................................... 68

1. Standby Counsel ................................................................................................. 68

2. Accommodations ................................................................................................ 69

V. Issues Related to Death Verdict ......................................................................... 70

A. Death Verdict Background .................................................................................. 70

1. Aggravating and Mitigating Factors ................................................................... 70

2. Penalty Phase ...................................................................................................... 73

3. Jury Deliberations ............................................................................................... 76

B. Issue 11: The Court Did Not Improperly Preclude Roof from Presenting Mitigating Evidence ........................................................................................... 78

1. The Precluded Mitigating Factors and Evidence of Prison Conditions ............. 78

2. The Prosecutor's Remarks at Closing Argument ............................................... 82

3. The Court's Response to Jury Notes .................................................................. 85

C. Issue 12: Isolated Witness Testimony Describing Roof as "Evil" and Stating that He Would Go to "the Pit of Hell" Did Not Render the Trial Fundamentally Unfair ......................................................................................... 86

1. The Testimony in Question ................................................................................ 87

2. Standard of Review ............................................................................................ 88

3. The Merits of Roof's Claims .............................................................................. 90

D. Issue 13: Neither the Admission of Victim-Impact Evidence nor the Prosecution's Closing Argument Violated Roof's Constitutional Rights .......... 92

1. Victim-Impact Evidence ..................................................................................... 93

E. Issue 14: Roof's Death Sentence Is Not Cruel and Unusual Punishment Under the Eighth Amendment ....................................................................................... 96

1. Age ...................................................................................................................... 97

2. Mental Incapacity ............................................................................................. 100

VI. Issues Related to Guilt Verdict ......................................................................... 100

A. Issue 15: Roof's Commerce Clause Challenges to the Religious-Obstruction Statute Do Not Require Reversal of Those Convictions .................................. 101

1. The Religious-Obstruction Statute Is Facially Valid ....................................... 105

2. The Religious-Obstruction Statute Is Valid as Applied to Roof ...................... 109

3. The Jury Instructions Were Proper ................................................................... 115

B. Issue 16: The Religious-Obstruction Statute Does Not Require Proof of Religious Hostility ............................................................................................ 119

C. Issue 17: Congress Did Not Exceed Its Thirteenth Amendment Authority in Enacting the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, 18 U.S.C. § 249 ............................ 120

1. Hate Crimes Background ................................................................................. 120

2. The HCPA Is Appropriate Legislation Under Controlling Thirteenth Amendment Precedent ............................................................................................. 122

D. Issue 18: The Attorney General Did Not Erroneously Certify...

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