CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) - Convicted murderer Dylann Roof said on Thursday tearful testimony by family members of those slain in the South Carolina church massacre was excessive and would prejudice jurors who will decide whether he should be sentenced to death.
The 22-year-old white supremacist, found guilty last month of killing nine black people at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in 2015, said in written motions it was unfair for federal prosecutors to pile on given he does not plan to present any mitigating evidence.
Roof is serving as his own lawyer during the penalty phase of his capital trial.
Roof objected to prosecutors’ initial plans to call 38 survivors and friends to detail the effects of the murders because that was the same number of witnesses who testified against Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh after he was convicted of killing 168 people.
“If I don’t present any mitigation evidence, the victim-impact evidence will take over the whole sentencing trial and guarantee that I get the death penalty,” Roof said in one of several motions decrying prosecutors’ tactics.
U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel urged prosecutors to pare down their witness list as jurors heard from victims’ loved ones for a second day.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson said prosecutors were making adjustments but noted the large number of victims resulted from Roof’s choices.
Nine family and friends remembered Myra Thompson, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, DePayne Middleton Doctor and the Reverend Daniel Simmons, who attended the Bible study meeting where Roof opened fire.
Thompson’s daughter, Denise Quarles, said she was angry Roof killed her in their beloved church.
“It pisses me off, but I won’t let what happened in that church stop me from being there,” Quarles told jurors.
Roof offered no defense or apology for his crimes during his brief opening statement on Wednesday, instead insisting to jurors he is not mentally ill.
He has asked no questions of the prosecution witnesses and has not objected in court to any testimony.
Prominent capital defense lawyer David Bruck, who represented Roof during the guilt phase of the trial and now serves as his standby counsel, said the defendant’s actions proved he was incapable of mounting a proper defense.
“This man cannot protect his own rights,” Bruck argued. “He cannot do it.”
Gergel refused to let Bruck make objections on Roof’s behalf.
Roof’s trial on state murder charges, set for Jan. 17, was delayed indefinitely on Thursday.
Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Leslie Adler and Matthew Lewis