Judge delays state trial for accused church shooter until Jan. 2017

Judge delays state trial for accused church shooter until Jan. 2017
Dylann Roof (Photo Source: Charleston Co. Sheriff's Office)
Dylann Roof (Photo Source: Charleston Co. Sheriff's Office)

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A judge agreed to delay the state death-penalty trial for the accused Emanuel AME Church shooter until January, 2017 after his defense requested more time to prepare.

The new start date will be Jan. 17, 2017, with jury selection to begin on Dec. 6.

The lawyers for Dylann Roof asked for additional time, saying Roof's defense cannot be prepared in time for trial as it is currently scheduled.

The request for more time comes nearly 10 months after the shootings at the historic church.

Roof's defense lawyers told Judge J.C. Nicholson the doctor hired to examine Roof needs two to six months to complete the psychiatric exam.

Nicholson granted the delay in the trial.

The attorney for some of the victims' family members and survivors said they expected the delay.

"Some react differently than others, but I say the vast majority understand why," Andy Savage said. "They want a fair trial because they don't want to come back and go through this again a year or two or five or six."

In a response to the defense motion filed Tuesday afternoon, the state noted it had not received all of the information in the filing, and therefore "the state cannot make an informed response to the defendant's motion and must rely upon the court's discretion."

Prosecutors have met with dozens of witnesses and issued many subpoenas, and expect to be prepared for trial on the July 11 start date the court previously set, the state's filing says.

The state petitioned the court to provide an updated scheduling order if it grants the continuance, and also requested the court "consult and coordinate" with the judge presiding over the trial for former North Charleston Police Officer Michael Slager, which is set to begin on Oct. 31. A state supreme court order protects Solicitor Scarlett Wilson and Chief Deputy Bruce Durant from other appearances during the Slager case.

Slager is facing a murder charge in the April 4, 2015 shooting of motorist Walter Scott after a traffic stop.

Roof is accused of killing nine people inside Mother Emanuel church last June. The motion to reschedule the trial was filed Thursday.

"To begin selecting a jury on July 11, 2016 or May 24, 2016, while substantial investigation and preparation remains to be done in a case that is neither factually nor legally simple or straight-forward, would deny the defendant the 'basic tools of an adequate defense,'" lawyers stated in the motion.

Last week a U.S. District Court judge granted a motion for a continuance in the federal trial.

Roof faces 33 federal counts including hate crime charges for the June 17, 2015 shooting.

Roof is still behind bars at the Charleston County jail.

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.

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