Charleston County Sheriff's Office
Roof's booking photo
Dylann Roof appeared in a Charleston courtroom Tuesday as attorneys discussed the timeline leading up to jury selection and federal trial currently scheduled to begin Nov. 7. Roof faces a 33-count federal indictment stemming from the June 17 shooting at Emanuel AME Church that claimed nine lives. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced in March that the Justice Department will seek the death penalty in Roof’s case, saying, “The nature of the alleged crime and the resulting harm compelled this decision.” Shackled and wearing a striped jumpsuit, Roof watched silently as U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel outlined the specifics of the trial that will ultimately decide his fate.
Under the current schedule, final jury selection will begin on Nov. 7. Gergel recommended a statewide jury pool and estimated that between 1,200-1,500 jurors may be summoned to participate. The selection process will begin with a standard juror questionnaire to eliminate any candidates who are not found to be acceptable applicants. From there, the remaining candidates will be brought in to a Columbia courthouse to meet with Gergel and undergo additional questioning. The jury selection process is expected to last up to three weeks.
Gergel said that defense 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, was pursuing trial far faster than most death penalty cases. Both sides said they will be prepared for court by the Nov. 7 start date. Gergel said the chance for delaying the trial was slim and mentioned that only a “shot in the dark” would lead to a continuance.
With Gergel’s decision, Roof is now set to face federal charges before his trial on state charges is scheduled to begin on Jan. 17. Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson is the lead prosecutor in the state cases for both Roof and former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager, who is scheduled to face trial Oct. 31 for the shooting death of Walter Scott.
Following Tuesday’s hearing, Wilson said that federal prosecutors had her full support and she will be ready to begin trial in January should something change in the federal case. She added that the notion that federal and state prosecution teams are “arm wrestling” over the case is untrue and the most important issue is bringing justice to the families of the victims.