Dylann Roof trial: Jury seated in Charleston

Posted at 1:13 PM, Dec 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-07 13:13:29-05

A jury was seated Wednesday morning for the trial of Dylann Roof, the man accused of killing nine people in June 2015 inside an African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Eight white women, two African-American women, one white man and one African-American man were seated in the jury box, according to a pool report from the US District Court in Charleston.

Two white women, two white men, a black woman and a black man were picked as alternates, the pool report said.

Roof wore his state-issued prison clothes as he sat next to lead defense attorney David Bruck. Roof looked through papers related to his case as US District Judge Richard Gergel instructed the jury.

Opening statements were expected later Wednesday.

Roof had sought to have the trial delayed because of a mistrial in the prosecution of Michael Slager, another racially charged trial held in Charleston.

That mistrial — less than 48 hours before Roof’s trial was scheduled to begin — “is highly likely to create undue pressure on the jury to compensate for the judicial system’s apparent failure to punish Mr. Slager by imposing a harsher punishment here,” Roof’s attorneys said in a motion filed Tuesday.

But Gergel didn’t accept that argument.

“The notion that a prospective juror in this case would respond to a mistrial in a state court case involving a police officer’s alleged criminal activity by imposing greater than deserved punishment on a defendant who is alleged to have entered a church building during Wednesday night Bible study and committed completely unrelated crimes seems utterly farfetched and illogical to the court.”

Slager, who is white, shot and killed Walter Scott, 50, who is black, after an April 4, 2015, traffic stop. The shooting was captured on a bystander’s cell phone video, which showed Scott running away as Slager fired eight times, striking Scott three times in the back. The jury failed to reach a verdict after 22 hours of deliberation.

In the Roof case, Gergel granted Roof’s motion on Monday to have attorneys assist him during the guilt phase of his trial but act alone during any sentencing proceeding.

But in another order Tuesday, the judge rejected the defense motion to restart the jury questioning. Gergel wrote that Roof actively participated in jury qualification questioning.

Roof, who is accused in the June 2015 shootings at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, was deemed competent to stand trial.

Roof faces 33 federal charges: nine counts of violating the Hate Crime Act resulting in death; three counts of violating the Hate Crime Act involving an attempt to kill; nine counts of obstruction of exercise of religion resulting in death; three counts of obstruction of exercise of religion involving an attempt to kill and use of a dangerous weapon; and nine counts of use of a firearm to commit murder during and in relation to a crime of violence.

If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

Roof also faces nine counts of murder and other charges in the state court system. His trial in that case is scheduled to start in January.