A federal court rejected a request by Dylann Roof, the unabashed white supremacist who killed nine black parishioners at a South Carolina church two years ago, to dismiss his attorneys because they're Jewish and Indian.
Roof, who was sent to death row for the June 2015 massacre at a historically black church in Charleston, requested that the two public defenders appointed to handle his appeal be removed from his case, saying their ethnicities are "a barrier to effective communication."
"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," the 23-year-old said in a handwritten, three-page motion filed Monday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. The court denied the request in a one-sentence ruling Tuesday.
His attorneys, Alexandra Yates and Sapna Mirchandani, did not respond to requests for comment.
Rishi Bagga, president of the South Asian Bar Association of North America, said that requesting an attorney's removal should be based on legal abilities. He said Roof's comments highlight a challenge among public defenders, who often have to represent clients who don't reflect their own views.
"It's really part of a lawyer's oath to represent someone to the best of their ability regardless of their own beliefs, religion or background or origin," Bagga said.