Attorney: Dylann Roof ready to plead guilty in church shooting

Judge says willing he's willing to modify gag order in Charleston church shooting
Judge J.C. Nicholson hearing from federal prosecutors on Wednesday. (Source: WCSC)
Judge J.C. Nicholson hearing from federal prosecutors on Wednesday. (Source: WCSC)

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - An attorney for suspected church shooter Dylann Roof said his client is ready to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence without parole.

That announcement came in a hearing Wednesday morning over a gag order in the shooting case.

The order issued by Judge J.C. Nicholson July 10, prevents attorneys from discussing the case and prevents the release of 911 calls, witness statements and coroner reports.

Defense attorney Bill McGuire, echoing attorneys for many of the victims' families, said he also wants to avoid further trauma, and said Roof is willing to plead guilty to all charges if that means a life sentence without parole. State prosecutor Scarlett Wilson previously announced she would pursue the death penalty against Roof.

Protecting the victims and their families from further trauma was among the leading concerns in Wednesday's gag order hearing.

An attorney for more than 600 churches in the 7th Episcopal District of the AME Church, compared releasing documents as picking at a "scab," that had just begun to heal.

Judge Nicholson said he's viewed pictures of the crime scene and has listened to the 911 calls, and described both as "morbid."

Nicholson said he would be willing to modify the order, releasing crime scene photos on a case by case basis. An attorney for survivors of the shooting suggested releasing transcripts over audio from 911 calls.

For now, the order remains in place.

According to the judge, he was not concerned about issuing the photos to credible media outlets, but instead was worried about making the crime scene photos available to other organizations.

A federal attorney asked that none of the documents be released, citing victims rights.

Attorneys for the media argued at least some of the documents should be released to give the public an open look at how local agencies responded to the church shooting, but agreed protecting the victims was a priority.

The judge says he wants to sit down with attorneys for the media, victims families and likely someone from the solicitors office, to figure out which photos could possibly be lifted under the order.

The date of that meeting has not been set.

The judge said earlier in September that the right to a fair trial for Roof, who is charged in the case, could be jeopardized by pretrial publicity.

A meeting for attorneys and jury selection is set for November 3. That's when a trial date on those charges could be set.

According to the AP, Meek has said Roof stayed with him in Lexington County before the June 17 shootings at the Emanuel AME church.

Copyright WCSC 2015. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.