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Dylann Roof Asks To Fire Legal Team Of 'Biological Enemies'

Dylann Roof asked to dismiss his legal team Monday, calling the lawyers' ethnicity a "conflict of interest."
Dylann Roof asked to dismiss his legal team Monday, calling the lawyers' ethnicity a "conflict of interest."

Dylann Roof, on federal death row for gunning down nine people two years ago at a historically black church in Charleston, S.C., wants his legal team dismissed because of the lawyers' ethnicity as he seeks to have his conviction and death sentence overturned.

"My two currently appointed attorneys, Alexandra Yates and Sapna Mirchandani, are Jewish and Indian respectively," Roof wrote in a letter filed Monday with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. "It is therefore quite literally impossible that they and I could have the same interests relating to my case."

The handwritten note goes on to state, "Because of my political views, which are arguably religious, it will be impossible for me to trust two attorneys that are my political and biological enemies."

Roof, who represented himself at the sentencing portion of his trial, targeted African-Americans in what federal prosecutors said was a bid to start a race war.

On the evening of June 17, 2015, worshippers welcomed Roof at a prayer meeting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. After sitting among them for nearly an hour, Roof opened fire as people closed their eyes in prayer.

Roof confessedto the crime during a taped interrogation. But at Roof's federal trial, defense attorney David Bruck argued that his client was influenced by hateful online rhetoric. The Post and Courier reported that Bruck wanted to present evidence of Roof's mental illness in a bid to spare his life, but Roof opposed it.

In his letter, Roof says that Bruck is Jewish and that it "was a constant source of conflict even with my constant efforts to look past it."

"My intentions are to have the appeals process for my case go as smoothly as possible," Roof writes, "the appeals should be worked on and written by lawyers with my best interests in mind."

The Post and Courier reports that Yates and Mirchandani were appointed to represent Roof after he was sentenced to death in January. A federal jury found him guilty of hate crimes and murder late last year, and he later pleaded guilty to murder charges in South Carolina state court.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Amy Held is an editor on the newscast unit. She regularly reports breaking news on air and online.