CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Defense attorneys are asking for the federal case against the man suspected of shooting and killing nine black parishioners during bible study to be dropped, arguing it is unconstitutional.
Federal prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Dylann Roof, 22, of Columbia.
In court documents filed Tuesday, attorneys argue the case should be left to State authorities, saying the federal government does not have the constitutional authority to prosecute him under the Commerce Clause and the 13th Amendment, which makes slavery illegal. They also argue the case violates the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.
"The charges at issue are extremely grave, but under the Constitution they are not properly charged," argued Sarah Gannett, one of Roof's attorneys. "The defendant therefore requests that the indictment be dismissed."
He faces 33 federal charges in the incident that left nine people dead and three injured at Emanuel AME Church in June 2015. Jury selection for his federal trial is scheduled to start on Nov. 7.
"The motion is being made only because the statutes at issue form the basis of the government's request for the death penalty," the motion states. "Should the government's death notice be withdrawn at any point in the future, the defendant will withdraw this motion and plead guilty as charged to all counts in the indictment."
Roof's attorneys say he will plead guilty to his state charges if the government stops pursuing the death penalty.
The suspect was indicted on 13 charges in state court. His state trial is scheduled for Jan. 17, 2017.