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Dylann Roof still competent for trial, self-representation; trial resumes Wednesday

FILE - This June 18, 2015, file photo, provided by the Charleston County Sheriff's Office shows Dylann Roof. (Charleston County Sheriff's Office via AP, File)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - Convicted church shooter Dylann Roof is still competent to stand trial and is capable of representing himself, a federal court judge ruled Monday.

The sentencing phase of the trial begins on Wednesday after the court granted a one-day break for Roof to prepare.

The decision from the bench comes after nearly eight hours of closed-door testimony during Monday's competency hearing for the convicted killer.

Before the hearing began, Judge Gergel heard from media attorney Jay Bender, who said it was important for the public to see all aspects of the case. Gergel said he agreed with Bender's arguments, but said the details of the competency testing could not be released.

Gergel said keeping the hearing open would mean sequestering the jury to guarantee it did not learn of the details of the hearing.

SPECIAL SECTION | The Emanuel AME Church shooting

According to Gergel, there is a lot of information that's been discussed in the competency hearing that is not widely known, and that information could taint the jury in the case.

Gergel said previously he also had to consider the pending state murder trial set to start later this month. He told Roof that he would eventually release transcripts of the hearings, despite Roof's objections, but he wanted to seek out the counsel of Circuit Court Judge JC Nicholson before releasing them as the state court prepared for trial.

Still, Gergel says he plans to release a transcript of the hearing within 10 days of the end of the sentencing phase of the federal trial. That could wrap up as early as next week.

Roof is expected to offer an opening statement and possibly a closing argument. But he's said he does not plan to introduce any evidence or call any witnesses. That's what concerned defense attorney David Bruck, and compelled him to call for another mental evaluation.

When proceedings begin again on Wednesday, Roof will not be able to move around the courtroom like most attorneys. He cannot approach the witnesses or the jurors and anything he needs to hand to the judge will have to be done through a third party.

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