[image-1]As more court documents outlining the mental state of Dylann Roof are unsealed, more facets of his character come to light — as do the bigoted beliefs that he felt justified the murder of nine black parishioners inside Emanuel AME Church.

In the days leading up to Roof’s federal trial, he grew increasingly suspicious of his attorneys’ intentions. Fearing that a mental health defense would undermine the hate crime he had carried out in the name of white nationalism, Roof reached out to the very prosecutors tasked with convincing a jury that he should be sentenced to death. Newly unsealed court documents show not only the results of Roof’s mental evaluation leading up to his sentencing, but also provide a closer look at the strained relationship he shared with those attempting to save his life.

While deemed competent to stand trial by a clinical psychiatrist on multiple occasions, an examiner notes the lengths that Roof was willing to go to protect the reputation that he had created for himself, even as his own attorneys attempted to present his idiosyncrasies as signs of mental illness.

“They think he should primarily fight for his life and that be his No. 1 priority, and he disagrees,” wrote Dr. James Ballenger during a three-hour meeting with Roof on Dec. 31, 2016. “He said that he has only two options (death and life in prison), and they are both ‘equally bad.’ That is why preserving his reputation is the most important issue for him, not whether he receives the death penalty or life in prison.”

When asked about an alleged preoccupation with his clothes, Roof pointed out that he was at the center of a high-profile murder trial and asked, “Is it so strange for me to want to look good with dozens of reporters sitting just behind him?”

Admittedly prone to extreme bouts of self-pity, Roof told the psychiatrist that he “can’t win” when it comes to his courtroom demeanor. Throughout the trial, Roof kept his eyes glued to his lap, looking up only when photographs of his bedroom back home were shown.

“He stated that he feels it is not right for him to look at the victims because ‘I killed their son,’ etc. but if he looks down he is also criticized for that,” the examiner wrote.

When asked if he was worried about facing the families of his victims and survivors of his attack in court, Roof said that although he “doesn’t care about them,” he doesn’t want to upset them either. Ultimately, Roof concluded that he didn’t think it would be difficult to listen to witnesses testify about the lives he had cut short, mainly because he “did not identify with them. He didn’t care.”

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In the end, Roof was allowed to represent himself during the final phase of his trial, although he offered almost nothing in the way of a defense. His attorneys sidelined and unable to present an argument that Roof may be autistic, only now have aspects of the case that would have been presented begun to surface.

Meeting with U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel last November, lead defense attorney David Bruck was asked about Roof’s alleged delusions. Bruck’s answers to the judge offer a few possible explanations for Roof’s more questionable behavior.

“Mr. Roof has a set of beliefs that he — that stemmed from material that he saw on racist sites on the internet, which boiled down to their essence are that black people are engaged in a violent assault and war to the death against white people, that this is evidenced by black-on-white violent crime,” Bruck told the judge. “And that the reason we don’t all know about this is that there is a conspiracy to suppress the news of this black-on-white crime. It extends through all U.S. news media except for a handful of racist and white nationalist websites.”

According to Bruck, it is this belief in a far-reaching conspiracy to conceal a war against white people that led Roof to warn one of his attorneys that she should “be very afraid because black people are going to burn tires around her neck, as used to happen in South Africa in times of unrest. And he cannot bring himself to [understand] why she is not as afraid of this as he is.”

Bruck told the court that Roof suggested presenting his “racist myths” to the jury — talking to them about black-on-white crime and his imaginary war — would be enough to prove his case. As with most of Roof’s arguments and concerns, the focus was always turned inward.

“He has had a long-standing somatic delusion that his face is malformed and his forehead is unsightly. This is the reason for the bowled haircut. He is afraid that anyone will see his forehead,” Bruck said.

It was this haircut that led to Roof being identified by a florist in Shelby, N.C., the day after the shooting at Mother Emanuel. According to Bruck, it was a fear of exposing his forehead that caused Roof to refuse to press charges after he was attacked in jail. Concerned that photographs of his injuries would be released, Roof refused to cooperate in any form of investigation.

But it was the psychiatrist who examined Roof that offered the final say in his competency to stand trial, and eventually, be sentenced to death for his crimes. After multiple evaluations, Dr. Ballenger continued to return to the same decision.

As Ballenger wrote on Roof, “It appears that all of his decisions in the trial are dominated and driven by his primary racial prejudice and wish to preserve that as the sole rationale for his crimes and to protect his long-term image and reputation as someone who has no mental illness.”


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