CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — A federal judge on Thursday delayed the trial for a white man accused of shooting nine black people at a Charleston church earlier this year.
Jury selection in the case of Dylann Roof had been set to begin next month. But U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel agreed to push the trial until at least January after both defense attorneys and federal prosecutors said they needed more time to prepare.
Roof, 21, faces dozens of federal charges, including hate crimes, stemming from the June 17 shootings at Emanuel AME Church.
Federal prosecutors have not said whether they’ll seek the death penalty, and Roof’s attorneys have said he would like to plead guilty. On Thursday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson said the U.S. Justice Department is still reviewing the matter and that U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch will ultimately decide if the government will pursue a death sentence.
Roof did not attend the meeting. In court documents posted online late Wednesday, he waived his right to appear. He also waived his right to a speedy trial. Under federal law, a trial must be held within 70 days of a defendant’s indictment.
Online records show three sealed orders in the case have been issued. When Roof was arraigned in federal court on 33 charges in late July, defense attorney David Bruck said his client wanted to plead guilty but that he could not counsel him to do so without knowing the government’s intentions.
Roof faces additional counts in state court, including nine murder charges.
State prosecutor Scarlett Wilson announced last month that while not all the families of the nine people killed want her to seek the death penalty, the state will argue that Roof be put to death if he is convicted in a state trial set for next year.
Wilson called Roof’s actions “the ultimate crime that deserved the ultimate punishment.” She said that she understands the desire of some victims’ families to forgive Roof but that it doesn’t eliminate the consequences of Roof’s actions.
Gergel also is hearing a second case stemming from the church shootings: that of Roof’s friend, 21-year-old Joey Meek.
Meek has pleaded not guilty to lying to law enforcement agents and failing to report what he knew about Roof’s intentions.
According to an indictment, Meek knew Roof planned to shoot black church members during Bible study but didn’t report it and lied to authorities. A hearing is set next week on Meek’s request to have his bond reduced.
(Photo Source: AP)