Date Set For Federal Death Penalty Case In Charleston Shooting

Photo: Chuck Burton/AP Photo.
Update: A November 7 date has been set for the federal trial of Dylann Roof, the white man accused of a hate crime in the 2015 murders of nine Black churchgoers in Charleston, SC, according to Reuters.

Chief U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel said on Tuesday that voter selection in the federal death penalty case will begin this fall, according to The Associated Press. Roof will go to court in a state trial, as well, where he also faces the death penalty, in January.

Update: May 24, 2016:
The Justice Department announced Tuesday that it will seek the death sentence in its case against Dylann Roof, the man charged with killing nine people in a 2015 mass shooting at a Charleston, SC, church.

“Following the department’s rigorous review process to thoroughly consider all relevant factual and legal issues, I have determined that the Justice Department will seek the death penalty,” Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch said in a statement, according to The Washington Post. “The nature of the alleged crime and the resulting harm compelled this decision.”

State prosecutors had previously declared their intent to seek a death sentence.

Update September 3, 2015:
South Carolina will seek the death penalty for Dylann Roof, according to court documents filed on Thursday. Roof also faces federal hate-crime charges that could also carry a death sentence. Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson is expected to speak at a press conference on Thursday afternoon.

This story was originally published on July 16, 2015.

Confessed gunman Dylann Roof appeared before a Charleston County, S.C., judge on Thursday and was presented with an indictment for nine counts of murder, three counts of attempted murder, and one weapons-possession charge in last month's brutal slaying of Black members of a Bible-study group.

The 21-year-old Roof is accused of entering the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on June 17 and massacring church members. A trial date has been tentatively set for July 11, 2016, although Roof's attorney reportedly was concerned about the quick timeline. The attorney, Ashley Pennington, appointed by the Charleston County Public Defender's Office, did not immediately respond to Refinery29's request for comment.

Roof's attack on the church appears to be racially motivated. One survivor of the massacre said Roof declared to his Black victims, "You are raping our women and taking over our country."

Last week, the FBI admitted that an error in federal background-check laws enable Roof to buy the gun he reportedly used in the slayings.

"I’m here today to talk to you about a mistake in a matter of heartbreaking importance to all of us. Dylann Roof, the alleged killer of so many innocent people at the Emanuel AME church, should not have been allowed to purchase the gun he allegedly used that evening," FBI director James Comey said in a statement on July 10.

Several media organizations, including the Charleston Post and Courier and the Associated Press, have filed Freedom of Information Act requests to obtain witness statements, transcripts of 911 calls, and coroner's reports.

But a judge at Thursday's hearing extended a gag order placed on media organizations attempting to obtain those record until July 22.

According to The Post and Courier, Ninth Circuit Judge J.C. Nicholson cited concerns this morning "over graphic photographs and dramatic 911 tapes that depict the shooting," saying that releasing these to the public is a "possible violation of a victim's bill of rights."

The Associated Press did not immediately respond to Refinery29's request for comment.

Considering that Roof entered a historically Black church and wrote a racist manifesto prior to the attacks, many feel that Roof should be charged with a hate crime or with domestic terrorism. But such a charge would have to come from the federal level — as South Carolina is one of the five states without hate-crime laws.
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