A federal appeals court on Friday denied Dylann Roof's request for a new appellate hearing, arguing that the lower court's rulings were correct in sentencing the South Carolina man to death for murdering nine members of a Black congregation in 2015.
In 2017, Roof was found guilty of 33 counts in connection with the June 17 massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. He became the first person in the U.S. sentenced to death for a federal hate crime.
Earlier this month, Roof, 27, filed a request that the full court consider his appeal, arguing that the judges' decision interpreted too broadly the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, which authorizes Congress to regulate commerce among the states.
By accepting the government's argument that a combination of factors including Roof's use of the internet to post his views and research the church constituted ''interstate commerce,'' Roof's lawyers wrote, the panel's decision amounted to ''an amorphous, unprecedented, and all-encompassing standard for federal Commerce Clause jurisdiction over local crime, effectively nullifying states' traditional police power in that arena.''
In their response, government attorneys wrote that the appellate court ''issued a fact-bound ruling that Roof's use of the internet both to select Mother Emanuel as his target and magnify his offense by posting his racist, violent call to action only hours before the attack'' fulfilled the Commerce Clause connection.
A federal appeals court in August upheld Roof's conviction and death sentence, saying the legal record cannot even capture the ''full horror'' of what he did.
A unanimous three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, rejected arguments that the young white man should have been ruled incompetent to stand trial in the shootings at the church.
In that appeal, Roof's attorneys argued that he was wrongly allowed to represent himself during sentencing, a critical phase of his trial.
Roof prevented jurors from hearing evidence about his mental health ''under the delusion,'' his attorneys argued, that ''he would be rescued from prison by white-nationalists — but only, bizarrely, if he kept his mental-impairments out of the public record.''
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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