In jailhouse visits with relatives and experts handling his case, Dylann Storm Roof did not express any remorse about the nine black parishioners he shot and killed at a historic church nearly two years ago in South Carolina.
Experts said Roof was more concerned with how many meals certain family members were eating together and how his cats were getting along without him, what was written on his Wikipedia page, and what he was going to wear to court — provided that he was not allowed to keep on the jail coveralls he preferred.
He also resisted the autism diagnosis from a psychologist for the defense, saying autism was for “nerds” and “losers,” according to recently unsealed court records, which perhaps provide a glimpse into the 23-year-old’s mind.
“The state psychiatrist told me there is nothing wrong with me,” said court records paraphrasing Roof’s statements. “I don’t have autism. I’m just a sociopath.”
U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel recently released Roof’s medical records and mental evaluations, as well as videos that capture several jailhouse visits with family members used as evidence in his competency hearings. Journalists were allowed to view the videos Tuesday, though the recordings have not been shared publicly.
The Charleston, S.C., Post and Courier reported that in one exchange leading up to Roof’s first competency hearing in November, he told his father, “I’m going to make this even worse.”
“What’s wrong with you, son?” his father replied, according to the newspaper. “You’ve got to be kidding me. Don’t do something stupid. You’ve already done enough!”
After Roof was deemed competent to stand trial and stated that he wanted to represent himself in the case, he told his mother that he still intended to retain his attorneys “so I can abuse them,” according to the Post and Courier.
“Do you know how that sounds?” she said, according to the newspaper.
“Funny?” he replied.
“Pathetic,” she said.
Roof then said that there was nothing wrong with him and that he did not want attorneys to present evidence from mental health experts that might show otherwise.
“These people represent criminals and lie for them,” Roof told his mother, according to the Post and Courier.
“Well, guess what, Dylann?” his mother replied. “You could have been an attorney. You could have been anything.”
“I am an attorney!” he said. “I’m an attorney in a capital case!”
“It’s your first and last case,” his mother, exasperated, replied.
In June 2015, Roof, then 21, a high school dropout and avowed white supremacist, interrupted an evening Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, shooting nine black parishioners in cold blood. In December 2016, he was convicted on 33 counts of federal hate crimes. In January, jurors sentenced him to death.
Roof represented himself during the sentencing phase.
In March, Roof pleaded guilty in state court to nine counts of murder, among other charges. And last month, he was given nine consecutive life sentences in state prison.
Leading up to his convictions and sentencing, Roof had told an autism expert who was brought in by his defense attorneys that he did not need any help, according to the recently released court records.
“I’m going to get pardoned in four or five years,” the autism expert paraphrased him as saying. “Please don’t come here and testify for me. I don’t need or want you here.”
A report from a psychological evaluation commissioned by his attorneys stated that Roof was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder “based on the presence of symptoms of social communication challenges and atypical behaviors.” It further stated that his autism symptoms cut him off from society, and “without input from competing viewpoints, Dylann went online, read and believed misinformation about African Americans, and developed a strong preoccupation with racism.
“Dylann’s unusual thinking, coupled with an autistic intensity of focus on these interests, and the absence of meaningful connection to anything other than what he read on the Internet, gave rise to an irrational belief that he had to commit these crimes.”
The report went on to note that Roof also showed symptoms of anxiety, depression, paranoia and “a number of highly unusual symptoms that suggest disordered thinking and lack of contact with reality.”
And it discussed Roof’s “preoccupation with racism.”
“Dylann operated in isolation,” the report said. “He did not join groups, and he had little opportunity to discuss racism and his developing ideas. His Internet search history includes searches related to racial content as early as 2008 (search for Aryan Brotherhood), and in evaluation, Dylann explained that he became ‘racially aware’ after Trayvon Martin was shot in 2012 and he Googled ‘black on white crime.’ As Dylann described in his confession, when he made that Google search, he was presented with FBI statistics that purportedly showed staggering rates of White women raped by Black men. He did not question these statistics, and apparently did not discuss them with others who could raise questions about their validity.
“While there is no reason to believe that can cause racism, ASD as well as other psychiatric conditions can fuel behavior in people that draws them to fringe political movements.”
Roof has objected to information being made public.
When the jailhouse videos were entered into evidence for Roof’s competency hearing late last year, Roof told the judge that they did not fairly represent him because he knew he was on camera, according to the Post and Courier.
“I haven’t been able to talk to my parents about my crime openly or anything like that since I have been arrested, and it’s a pretty, you know, serious thing, you know, and I haven’t been able to really explain it to them,” he told the judge, according to the newspaper. “I’m sure it’s left them with a lot of questions. The other thing I want to say about that is that my lawyers are trying to make it out to seem like my behavior in these videos, like the ones they just gave to you, is my natural behavior. It isn’t. I know I’m being watched.”
“Is that affecting your behavior?” the judge asked him.
“Absolutely,” Roof replied.