With the largest series of court cases in South Carolina’s recent history set to overlap later this year, Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson has requested that the state trial of accused Emanuel AME Church shooter Dylann Roof precede his federal trial.
Wilson argues that the scheduling of Roof’s federal trial for Nov. 7 creates substantial problems for attorneys. Roof’s state trial is currently set to begin Jan. 17, 2017. Wilson also requests that the four judges assigned to preside over the state and federal trials of both Roof and former North Charleston police officer Slager consult one another regarding the court dates for each case. In a motion filed Tuesday, the solicitor lays out the timeline of events in the cases against Roof and points to a great amount of foot-dragging on the part of federal prosecutors who announced their plans to seek the death penalty nine months after the state made its decision. In the new motion, Wilson argues that the federal trial date poses a burden to the families’ of the victims, creates challenges for local police, and undermines that state’s efforts to pursue the death penalty.
According to the motion, “The state has confirmed that victims’ families and survivors were not consulted as to how a six- to eight-week federal trial spanning three holidays would affect them. The state has likewise confirmed that the victims are requesting that the state trial precede the federal trial and are opposed to a trial interfering with their Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s holidays.”
Wilson’s motion also claims that local law enforcement agencies were not asked for input regarding the need for extra security related to Slager’s state trial, which is set to begin just one week before Roof’s federal trial taking place across the street from the federal courthouse. As currently scheduled, Wilson will serve as lead prosecutor in Slager’s state trial beginning Oct. 31 before transitioning into jury selection for Roof’s state trial, which is set for Dec. 6. The solicitor claims that both Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen and County Sheriff Al Cannon have confirmed that these overlapping trials “will put a severe strain” on local authorities.
Another key argument from Wilson suggests that a state trial would still be required regardless of the outcome of Roof’s federal trial. Citing statistics from the Death Penalty Information Center, the prosecutor asserts that the United States hasn’t carried out an execution since March 2003, which has left state attorneys with very little confidence that the government would carry out a death sentence.
“Because of the apparent unwillingness of the United States to implement a sentence of death,” states Wilson’s motion, “the state submits that the outcome of the federal trial has little or no relevance to the defendant’s ultimate fate.”