A judge ruled Monday that a jury drawn from the Charleston area will decide the fate of accused Emanuel AME Church shooter Dylann Roof.
Leading up to the decision, attorneys had debated over whether 1,200-1,500 potential jurors would be summoned from a statewide pool or whether they would be selected from a nine-county district that makes up the Lowcountry. Prosecutors had previously argued for a jury pulled from all across South Carolina out of concern that the defense would mount a last-minute venue challenge. Roof’s federal trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 7.
A majority of Monday’s hearing focused on how attorneys will disclose the findings of expert witnesses as they relate to a mental health defense. Roof’s attorneys have made it clear that if their client is convicted, they intend to present evidence of a “mental disease or defect” to avoid a death sentence.
Under a federal guideline known as Rule 12.2, a defendant is required to give notice if he or she intends to rely upon an insanity defense or the defense plans to introduce expert testimony related to mental health issues. The point of this requirement is to give federal prosecutors time to prepare their case and gather input from their own mental health experts. According to Cornell’s Legal Information Institute, the results and reports of any examination conducted under Rule 12.2 as a part of an insanity defense must be sealed and cannot be disclosed to attorneys unless the defendant is found guilty of a capital crime.
Roof’s attorneys voiced concern regarding how much access they will have to their client while he meets with the government’s experts. Meanwhile prosecutors are pushing for the judge to compel the defense to disclose more details related to Roof’s mental health examinations. U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel, who is overseeing the federal trial, said in court Monday that the challenge with Rule 12.2 is balancing a defendant’s right against self incrimination with a prosecutor’s right to rebut mitigating defense arguments. Ultimately, it was decided that Roof’s evaluations will be videotaped, and his attorneys will not be required to provide summaries of testimony provided by expert witnesses until the penalty phase of the trial.