CHARLESTON, S.C. — Dylann Roof wrote in a court filing unsealed Thursday that it was “not fair” for prosecutors to present such extensive testimony about the effect of his church shooting here on victims’ family members, arguing – because he was not presenting any evidence – that it would virtually assure a death sentence.

“If I don’t present any mitigation evidence, the victim-impact evidence will take over the whole sentencing trial and guarantee that I get the death penalty,” Roof wrote.

The filing was unsealed on the second day of the penalty phase in Roof’s trial, as prosecutors elicited emotional stories from the loved ones of those slain at Charleston’s historical Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Aside from Roof’s opening statement, the motion marked his first substantive participation in the penalty phase of the proceedings. He has mostly sat silent, staring straight ahead and declining to question any witnesses himself.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel ultimately did not impose any limits on testimony, although he warned prosecutors he was worried about the issue. “I’m concerned both about the number of witnesses and the length of their testimony and the length collectively of their testimony, and I want you to revisit your strategy here, because at some point I’m going to cut you off if it gets too long,” he said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson insisted the government was acting appropriately.

“It is also, I think, important that the government and these individuals are allowed to tell the stories of their loved ones,” he said.

Roof, 22, was convicted last month of federal hate crimes for killing nine people in a June 2015 rampage at the Mother Emanuel church, and jurors have only two options for his sentence: life in prison or death. He has said the massacre was racially motivated.

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