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Jail videos: Dylann Roof calls attorneys "spawn of hell," mother asks "Then what are you?"

Dylann Roof sketch (Robert Maniscalco/WCIV)

In nearly three hours of jailhouse video shown publicly for the first and only time Tuesday, convicted Emanuel AME Church murderer Dylann Roof is seen joking with his family, asking about his cats and becoming upset when his relatives suggest he should use his lawyers.

‘Don’t trust my lawyers, they’re tricking you” Roof told family in jailhouse conversations.

Federal officials showed more than three hours of videos to reporters in Charleston on Tuesday. The videos were part of hearings that determined the white supremacist was competent to stand trial for killing nine black church members.

Four videos from three separate days in November and December were released. They show the convicted gunman laughing and questioning what’s going on in court. Roof is seen on the right side of a split screen dressed in a prison jumpsuit. He spoke on the phone to his father and mother in one video, seated in a separate room and on the left side of the split screen.

Bizarre behaviors are evident in the video. Roof laughs at unusual times and cries once when he insists he has syphilis, even though he had been examined and did not have the disease.

Roof mainly argued with his mother and joked with his father, who once asked his son why the government is wasting so much money on him.

During a December 18th conversation, Roof’s step-sister jokes about attending Roof’s execution if he receives the death penalty. Roof, his step-sister, and his father all laugh at the question. A judge sentenced Roof to the death penalty in January.

Roof’s parents spend several minutes trying to convince him that his attorneys want to help. “You don’t understand anything,” Roof responded at one point. “Don’t trust my lawyers, they’re tricking you,” he added. The convicted shooter laughs awkwardly throughout the conversation, and his mother questions his mental health. “He tells his mother to look for “little flames” in his attorney’s eyes.

Much of the conversations centered on Roof’s home life, with his mother even describing how his cats were doing. “All I can do is love you,” his mother told Roof after he continued to insist his attorneys were “evil”.

Roof insisted that he had several diseases during the conversations, including Syphilis and Hashimoto’s, claims prior examinations by doctors disproved.

“I think you should have gone with the mental health plea,” Roof’s father said during the December 18th conversation. Roof generally has less patience when talking with his mother, often expressing annoyance at the clothes she sends him in jail.

The videos won’t be released to the public.

Synopses of the videos are below:

Nov. 19, 2016 (before trial) - Conversation between Roof, his father and mother

  • Roof is generally jovial and smiles in his prison jumpsuit, but i’s very hesitant to talk at first.
  • Father says “It doesn’t sound like it,” when Roof says things are going well.
  • They briefly talk politics. “Trump is draining the swamp,” Roof's father says.
  • “It’s all a lie,” Roof says of Trump, and says he would have rather had Bernie Sanders in office.
  • Roof randomly laughs, father asks why he’s laughing, and says he's heard Roof is stressed.
  • Talk shifts to Roof’s attorneys; Roof describes them as “evil." Roof says, “Do not trust my lawyers, they’re tricking you,” and says “They are the sneakiest people.” Father assures Roof attorneys are trying to help.
  • Roof talks about the government paying for everyone and everything going on with the trial and is upset. He calls it “stupid.”
  • There's talk of what Roof will wear in court. Roof gets agitated with his mother about clothes she sends him. Mother insists Roof wear his own clothes vs. jail jumpsuit to court. Roof insists he’ll wear his jumpsuit.
  • Roof becomes adamant he has several diseases, and says “I can’t read, my brain is deteriorating.” Roof says he has "viruses" and "Hashimoto's disease."
  • His mother becomes pretty concerned by this behavior, and tells Roof she doesn’t think he’s mentally stable.
  • Father tells Roof to read the Bible, and says "You created this mess.”
  • Mother tells Roof he has Asperger's syndrome; Father says he believes Roof has autism.
  • Roof: "They’re misdiagnosing me." Father: “To save your life.”
  • Father: “If all this goes to trial, I’m not coming ever day.” Roof: ”I don’t want you there every day.”
  • They start talking about Roof’s cats
  • Mother: “I’m gonna stay here 'til the bitter end.” and “I’ll be in courtroom every day.” Roof: ”She’ll make it worse, I don’t want her there.”
  • Roof: “I’m going to do something that’s going to make it worse before the trial.” Father: “What’s wrong with you? Don’t do anything stupid.” Roof says he’s joking.
  • Father starts to cry and leaves the room. He comes back angry, and says “Nothing could be worse than what you’ve already done.”
  • Father: “You know everything you’ve done reflects on us as a family? Don’t be a f****** dumb***.”
  • Roof says “I love you, I love you, I love you. Bye” as video cuts off.

Dec. 18, 2016 (after trial) - Conversation between Roof, his father and younger half-sister

  • Roof and his father still seem generally jovial.
  • Father: “I’m pleading with you to use your attorneys for the sentencing phase on January 3rd.”
  • Roof says he has his opening statement, and that his closing statement is "going to be even better.” “I have it memorized,” Roof says.
  • Father: “I read that manifesto.” Roof: “Don’t read that. It’s trash.”
  • Sister says Roof looks stupid in the videos where he’s shooting guns.
  • Roof on his attorneys: “I hate them.”
  • Sister: “You’ve missed a lot. Send me a birthday card. Write me a letter:
  • Father: “I think you should have gone with the mental health plea.” Roof disagrees.
  • Roof says guards have stopped giving him recreation time, and he now has guards on him at all times.
  • Father asks Roof about his buddy “Michael Slager,” and says he had mistrial.
  • Roof thinks his father could be called to testify to make him look bad.
  • Sister asks if Roof gets the death penalty, can they come and watch? They all laugh. Roof says he can invite two people.
  • Sister: “A lot of people don’t like you.”
  • Roof tells his father about his Garmin, and having the GPS analyzed.
  • Roof tells his father to do something fun while he’s in Charleston.
  • Roof asks his father if he watched his confession. Father says yes. Roof asks, “Why’d you watch it?"
  • Session ends when his father tells Roof everyone loves him.

Dec. 28, 2016 (after trial) - Conversation between Roof, his mother and her boyfriend

  • Roof is again annoyed with his mother about the clothes she bought for him.
  • Mother: “I cried all day” when Roof was adamant she come visit him. She thought something was wrong. He just wanted to talk to her about the clothes she was sending.
  • Roof laughs out loud when his mother says his attorneys are good people.
  • Mother: “You still planning on representing yourself?” Roof: “I have a lot of stuff to say.”
  • Mother calls it pathetic, and says “Just because you’re representing yourself doesn’t mean you’re a lawyer.”
  • Roof: “I am an attorney." Mother: “This is your first and last case. ... Where did you come to conclusion you wanted to represent yourself?”
  • Roof says he has a right to represent himself, and adds “not that I believe in rights.”
  • Roof on not trusting attorneys: “These people are representing criminals and lie for them." Roof= says the “prosecution is more honest than my lawyers.”
  • Roof tells his mother to “look into the lawyer’s eyes,” and says to look for “little flames.”
  • Roof: “They’re the spawn of hell." Mother: “Then what are you?” ... “Maybe I need to write letter to have you re-evaluated.”
  • Mother: “You could have been anything you want.”
  • Mother: “All I can do is love you,” and tells him to hire his attorneys back.
  • Roof is clearly getting agitated with him mother in the latter half of the conversation, and doesn’t want to use the full time.
  • Mother asks Roof about Christmas in jail. Roof says there were presents and tinsel in his room.
  • Roof tells his mother he loves her as the video ends.

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