Dylann Roof has filed an appeal for new legal representation because his lawyers — the Jewish Alexandra Yates and the Indian Sapna Mirchandani — aren’t white, and therefore are his “biological enemies.” The 23 year old has been exceedingly open about his white supremacist views and his racist motivations in opening fire on parishioners at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015. The real question is what he might do if the court doesn’t approve his motion to have new attorneys appointed:
“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. It is therefore quite literally impossible that they and I could have the same interests relating to my case. It is also a barrier to effective communication. The lawyer appointed to represent me at my Federal trial was David Isaac Bruck, who is also Jewish. His ethnicity was a constant source of conflict even with my constant efforts to look past it.”
Roof’s efforts to “look past” Bruck’s Hebraic background actually took the form of threatening to kill the man if Roof ever got out of jail. He tried to fire Bruck during the trial and petitioned for the opportunity to represent himself in court. Now Roof, who is seeking an appeal of his death penalty sentence, feels that Yates and Mirchandani aren’t working with Roof’s “best interests in mind” as they craft his appeal.
For Roof’s request for new public defenders to be approved, he has to actually prove that Yates and Mirchandani are in some way genuinely violating his constitutional right to legal representation. All Roof might accomplish is delaying his own appeal proceedings while the court makes a decision. If the court sides with Roof, new public defenders would have to be appointed to Roof’s case — and presumably the court would have to find a pair of appellate attorneys who didn’t have the same combination of faith and melanin that supposedly disqualifies Roof’s current representation.
One thing Roof doesn’t seem to have considered, however, is that public defenders are sworn to execute fair and just legal counsel regardless of their personal feelings about the defendant. There are plenty of white, Christian people who are appalled by Roof’s crimes and might be reluctant to defend him. So Roof’s argument might not sway a judge who has a better understanding of how exactly public defenders of any race or religion are obligated to fulfill their duties.
UPDATE – 4:04pm EST: Bloomberg reports that Roof’s request for new attorneys has been denied.