The federal trial of Dylann Roof will be delayed as defense attorneys await news of whether prosecution will seek the death penalty.
Attorneys from both sides appeared before U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel Thursday morning to discuss the case. Federal prosecutor Jay Richardson said at least one hard drive containing evidence from the case has been turned over to the defense, and the FBI is in a continuous process of creating additional reports for attorneys. Richardson added that the prosecutors feel that they are much closer to finishing the deliberative process as to whether they will seek the death penalty for Roof, but that final decision may not arrive until April.
Roof faces a 33-count federal indictment stemming from the June 17 shooting at Mother Emanuel Church in downtown Charleston that ended in the deaths of nine parishioners. This includes three charges of attempted murder, as well as charges for hate crimes and firearms offenses.
Last July, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch released a statement regarding the federal charges, saying, “It is important to note, however, that South Carolina does not have a hate crimes statute, and as a result, the state charges do not reflect the alleged hate crime offenses presented in the federal indictment ...”
Defense attorneys told the judge Thursday that Roof has offered a guilty plea on the condition that the Department of Justice not seek the death penalty. They said that federal investigators have been very forthcoming with evidence, but their preparation for the case hinges upon the government’s decision regarding the death penalty.
Roof is represented by attorney David Bruck, who previously defended Susan Smith, the South Carolina woman convicted of drowning her two children in 1995, and Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
Roof is set to face trial for state charges on July 11.