With 3,000 potential jurors summoned in the federal case of Dylann Roof, the judge overseeing the upcoming trial has laid out a plan for the proceedings.
Beginning on Sept. 26, prospective jurors who completed an initial questionnaire will report to the federal courthouse in Charleston to undergo additional screening and receive instructions from the judge. Final questioning of potential jurors will begin Nov. 7 and continue until a final group of 12 jurors and a set of alternates are selected. Roof’s trial on charges related to last year’s shootings at Emanuel AME Church will commence once all parties involved decide upon the group who will ultimately decide his guilt or innocence.
Attorneys for the prosecution filed a series of motions earlier this week aimed at prohibiting Roof from providing an unsworn statement to the jury during the penalty phase of the trial. If the jury finds Roof guilty, they must then decide whether or not he will face the death penalty. If the trial does proceed into the sentencing phase, prosecutors are requesting that Roof be prohibited from addressing the jury to “ask for mercy ... apologize for the crime, or say anything else in an effort to lessen the impending sentence.”
In their argument against allowing Roof the opportunity to request mercy if convicted, the prosecution lays out the challenges faced in sentencing a person to execution. While those defending Roof only need to convince one juror that the death penalty is not a suitable punishment, prosecutors are tasked with presenting their case in a way that persuades the entire jury.
During the trial, half of the courtroom seats available to the public will be allocated for the survivors and families of the victims from the attack at Mother Emanuel. Additional seating will be reserved for Roof’s family and members of the media. The remaining courtroom space will be available to the general public on a first-come, first-serve basis. Those seated in the courtroom will be given admission passes valid for that day, which must be presented to security officers to gain re-entry. Overflow seating will also be available to the public in another courtroom which will feature a live video feed of the trial.
The federal trial of Dylann Roof is likely to stretch across the last few months of the year, leading up to a separate state trial that will also take place in Charleston. Currently, jury selection in the state case is set to begin Jan. 17, 2017, on which day the first group of 200 potential jurors will report to a Charleston courthouse to begin the selection process. According to a recent scheduling order for the judge overseeing Roof’s state case, the trial will begin on or after Jan. 30 once a final jury has been drawn.