CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A U.S. District Court judge granted a motion for a continuance in the Dylann Roof trial and did not set a date for the trial of Roof's friend, Joey Meek, but issued stern words for prosecutors in the Roof case.
"My patience is running out," Judge Richard Gergel told Federal Prosecutor Jay Richardson after Richardson requested a continuance. Richardson said U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch needs more time to make the "important decision" about whether to seek the death penalty against Roof in the killings of nine parishioners at Mother Emanuel AME Church last June.
The judge, however, told prosecutors he would set the date soon if Lynch takes much longer to decide whether to pursue the death penalty for Roof's alleged crimes. Gergel said he wants to set a trial date for the sake of the victims' families and the public.
Roof's attorney, David Bruck, reiterated that if the death penalty is taken off the table in the federal case, his client is ready to enter a guilty plea. Roof did not attend the hearing.
Roof faces 33 federal counts including hate crime charges for the June 17, 2015 shooting. His friend, Joey Meek, is accused of not telling the FBI all he knew about Roof's plans and faces up to eight years in prison.
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The judge also did not set a trial for Meek. Meek's attorney estimates his trial will last about two weeks and told the judge she could be ready for the trial by the last two weeks of June. Meek was not present in court at his hearing.
Family members of the victims were in court Tuesday.
"We're just going to go along with whatever the program is that the judge decides," attorney Andy Savage, who is representing the victims' families, said. "The victims are optimistic that justice will be done."
Meek pleaded not guilty when he appeared in federal court in September following his arrest.
Meek is currently free on bail. Roof is still behind bars at the Charleston County jail.
A July 11 court date has been set for the suspect on the state level. Around 600 Charlestonians will be summoned for jury duty, then whittled down this summer. Officials on the state level already have said they will seek the death penalty.