Jury selection in the federal trial of accused Emanuel AME Church shooter Dylann Roof was postponed Monday.
The long, slow process of narrowing down the remaining 512 potential jurors was temporarily put on hold, while U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel met with Roof and his attorneys for a closed hearing. Judge Gergel issued a statement prior to the hearing, saying he had received a motion Monday morning that required his immediate attention.
Gergel stated that the closing of Monday’s hearing was necessary to protect Roof’s attorney-client privilege, as well as his right to a fair and impartial jury and fair trial.
During a separate hearing held at 10 a.m., the judge heard from numerous media outlets challenging his decision to close the hearing, but Gergel would not be swayed.
“I fully recognize that this notice provided is short, but under the circumstances it is necessary for the court to proceed with the hearing immediately,” Gergel continued. “The court intends to authorize the release of all admissible evidence and all judicial orders at the earliest possible time when such release does not jeopardize the defendant’s right to a fair and impartial jury and does not invade the attorney-client privilege.”
In a heavily redacted court order filed Monday evening, the judge cited the legal precedent for closing the hearing, adding, “This is an unusually sensitive period in this proceeding where highly prejudicial pre-trial publicity could taint the jury pool and make selection of a fair and impartial jury increasingly challenging. Although the court has instructed prospective jurors to avoid media coverage, as one journalist noted at today’s 10 a.m. hearing, the country and the world are watching. Given the pervasive coverage of today’s proceedings, a prospective juror may accidentally overhear some information. [Redacted] should not be part of that information.”
Jury selection will resume Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. in the federal courthouse in downtown Charleston.