Accused Charleston gunman asks judge to reinstate defense team

CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) - The avowed white supremacist accused of killing nine black people at an historic South Carolina church told a federal judge on Sunday that he no longer wished to represent himself during the "guilt" phase of his murder trial in Charleston.

Dylann Roof, 22, sent a handwritten note to U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel saying that he now wished to bring back his defense team, at least temporarily, for a trial that began last week with jury selection.

"Can you let me have them back for the guilt phase, and then let me represent myself for the sentencing phase of the trial?" Roof wrote in blue ink on lined notebook paper. "If you would allow that, then that is what I would like to do."

Roof has not said publicly why he wants to defend himself against charges stemming from the shooting attack, carried out during a Bible study session at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in June 2015.

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His lawyers previously said Roof wanted to plead guilty if federal prosecutors agreed to a sentence of life in prison without parole. They refused. Roof faces the death penalty in a state murder trial set to begin early next year.

David Bruck, Roof's former lead attorney, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson could not immediately be reached for comment.