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A Most American Terrorist: The Making of Dylann Roof

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“What are you?” a member of the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston asked at the trial of the white man who killed eight of her fellow black parishioners and their pastor. “What kind of subhuman miscreant could commit such evil?... What happened to you, Dylann?”
Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah spent months in South Carolina searching for an answer to those questions—speaking with Roof’s mother, father, friends, former teachers, and victims’ family members, all in an effort to unlock what went into creating one of the coldest killers of our time.
Sitting beside the church, drinking from a bottle of Smirnoff Ice, he thought he had to go in and shoot them.
They were a small prayer group—a rising-star preacher, an elderly minister, eight women, one young man, and a little girl. But to him, they were a problem. He believed that, as black Americans, they were raping “our women and are taking over our country.” So he took out his Glock handgun and calmly, while their eyes were closed in prayer, ope…

Famous Death Penalty Lawyer Closes the Book on His Last Capital Case

Jury box
Veteran death penalty defense attorney Jimmy Berry of Marietta closed the book on his last open capital murder case Tuesday.

It wasn't a win; it wasn't a loss. The case went to dead docket, his client committed to a psychiatric prison, declared incompetent to stand trial.

In Berry's line of work, it was the best he could do. And it got him started talking to a reporter late in the day about the 50 death penalty cases he's handled over nearly half a century.

"I'm 74. I've been doing this 47 years," Berry said. "I've tried a lot of murder cases, a lot of death penalty cases. It's sad to see the suffering of people in the victims' families, what they have to go through, and the families of the people charged."

"It's a tough doing these kinds of cases—a lot tougher than people think," he added.

Asked what drove him to choose this work, Berry paused. "I don't know. I like a challenge, I guess," he said. "I want to try to help people the best way I can."

It's not for appreciation, he said: "Generally the public doesn't like criminal defense lawyers. It's sad. You need criminal defense lawyers to make sure the system runs properly. If some things are not done properly or against the Constitution, it won't work. You've got to have both sides."

He said he still has three murder cases open, but none of them will involve the death penalty. He doesn't know if he'll take another capital case.

Tuesday's case was unusual, Berry said. After seven years of attempts to prosecute Berry's client, Jesse James Warren will go to a prison psychiatric hospital indefinitely. Warren has been charged with killing four people and seriously wounding a fifth at the Penske truck-leasing facility in Kennesaw on Jan. 12, 2010. Psychiatrists have found him incompetent to stand trial and said he refuses to take medication to control his schizophrenia and delusions. The state tried to forcibly medicate him in an attempt restore his competency, but the Georgia Supreme Court overruled that effort in 2015. Among the high court's concerns were that the meds might not work.

On Tuesday, Cobb County Superior Court Judge Mary Staley Clark signed a civil commitment order, granting a request from Berry and co-counsel Gerald Word of the Georgia Capital Defender office. Warren will be held and evaluated in much the same way he would have been if he'd been tried and found not guilty by reason of insanity. The court will re-evaluate his status annually, but Berry said he doesn't expect it to change. Warren, he said, is unable to assist in his own defense because he continues to believe the delusions that he was acting under seven years ago.

"He believes all that was a conspiracy," Berry said of Warren. Even at their last meeting on Friday, he said Warren was concerned not with defending himself but of making sure his legal team presented documentation of his delusions.

This was a textbook case for the insanity defense, if it had gone that far, Berry said. Most are not so clear, although many involve mental illness, he said. He has taken some encouragement in the development of mental health courts that have come with criminal justice reform.

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Source: Daily Report, Katheryn Hayes Tucker, August 2, 2017

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