Dylann Roof Gets Famed Anti-Death Penalty Attorney For Federal Trial

David Bruck previously defended Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Accused Charleston shooter Dylann Roof will be defended at his federal trial by David Bruck, the famous anti-death penalty attorney who most recently co-defended Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Bruck, who leads the Virginia Capital Case Clearinghouse, a legal defense clinic out of the Washington and Lee University School of Law, was named the lead attorney in Roof's federal case, according to court documents filed Wednesday.

Earlier on Wednesday, the 21-year-old Roof was indicted on 33 federal charges, including 13 hate crime charges. Roof was previously indicted for homicide at the state level for allegedly killing nine people at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, in June.

Though he could face the death penalty in both trials, Bruck's appointment does not necessarily suggest that capital charges are forthcoming, said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. Prosecutors at the state and federal level have yet to reveal whether they will seek the death penalty for Roof.


"I think that in the case like this, you’d appoint somebody who is on the list [of federal public defenders] and when death is a possibility," Dunham told The Huffington Post by phone Thursday. "What you don’t want to do is appoint somebody who cannot handle all the potential charges in the case."

Dunham also noted that Bruck, who serves on the Death Penalty Information Center's board of directors, is a member of the state and federal bar associations in South Carolina.

In addition to defending Tsarnaev -- who was recently sentenced to death -- Bruck has also defended Zayd Hassan Abd al-Latif Masud al-Safarini, who hijacked Pan Am Flight 73 in 1986, and Susan Smith, a South Carolina mother who was convicted in 1995 of drowning her two young sons by strapping them into her car and letting it roll into a lake. Both defendants avoided the death penalty and are serving life sentences.

Bruck, who is Canadian, has long been an outspoken opponent of the death penalty and has penned scholarly articles and mainstream media op-eds on the subject in publications like The Washington Post and The New Republic.
Scott Eisen via Getty Images
Dunham, who has himself represented clients who were at risk of being sentenced to death, explained that many anti-death penalty attorneys fight against capital punishment as an institution, despite the heinous nature of crimes perpetrated by the defendants.
"As a public defender, you take the clients you’re appointed," he said. "You take clients who are high-profile with very controversial and sometimes horrific facts and you take clients who are low-profile who may be flat-out innocent. You take what you get."
"And the fact of the matter is," Dunham added, "you’re not a hero for representing a sympathetic client, and you’re not a villain for representing an unsympathetic client."
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