Attorneys debate jury selection, mental health evaluations in Charleston church shooting case

Attorneys debate jury selection, mental health evaluations in Charleston church shooting case

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - In a series of court motions filed this week, the defense and prosecution argued over questions about jury selection and mental health evaluations for the man accused of shooting nine people in a Charleston church last summer.

Among the issues brought up in the motions are the areas from which jurors will be called and the voir dire, or jury qualification, process, as well as how mental health evaluations of Dylann Roof will be conducted and how the results of those evaluations will be handled once they are complete.

Three key issues remain in jury selection procedure

Prosecutors say three areas of disagreement remain over the issue of jury selection in a motion filed on June 24.

The first is that the court use a district-wide venire, or list of potential jurors, rather than one that could consist of people only from the entire district of South Carolina. A district-wide list would include residents of Charleston and Beaufort Divisions, known as "Area C." Prosecutors are calling for a district-wide jury pool.

Secondly, federal prosecutors have requested the court conduct the voir dire process, rather than having the attorneys from both sides directly question potential jurors once the court determines they are qualified to serve on the jury. Roof's defense team wants the attorneys themselves to be able to question potential jurors directly.

The prosecution's filing argues "attorney-led voir dire poses risks of abuse and does not inherently lead to fairer or more partial juries."

The defense team's motion states, "Both experience and social science research demonstrate that a voir dire process that includes questioning by counsel best facilitates juror honesty."

Finally, prosecutors want the court to use a standard "struck jury" procedure, meaning the court would qualify a sufficient number of potential jurors, approximately 70, to be able to seat a jury of 12 and six alternates, attorneys would then be allowed to strike a  predetermined number of potential jurors each side feels may be biased at one time.

The defense motion calls for a change in how pre-emptory strikes are conducted; specifically, the defense team wants each juror temporarily excused after questioning has taken place so that the court can hear and decide any challenges against that juror from either side. If the juror is not excused for cause, both sides would then either have to accept the juror or utilize one of their pre-emptory strikes to remove the juror.

"The benefit of the defendant's strike-as-you-go proposal is that it would minimize the time and effort spent qualifying or excusing individual jurors, because the process ends when both sides are satisfied with the trial jury," the defense team's motion states.
"The procedure advocated by the defendant would unnecessarily complicate the process of exercising pre-emptory strikes," the prosecution's motion states.

Debate on mental health evaluation focuses on testing, handling of results

The second pair of filings relate multiple issues about Federal Rule 12.2 on mental health evaluations conducted in cases that may incorporate an insanity defense. The motions cover points that include how evaluations will be conducted, what will be done with the results and who will have access to those results and at what time that access is granted.

One of the issues being argued is the timing and content of the defense's intentions on presenting evidence of a mental disease or defect.

The defense team proposes filing a notice no later than July 11 stating whether it intends to "present expert evidence relating to a mental disease or defect or any other mental condition of the defendant bearing on either the issue of guilt or the issue of punishment in a capital case. That notice will be accompanied by a sealed supplemental notice containing the kinds of mental health experts the defense presently intends to call, and the specific tests those experts have performed."

Prosecutors want the defense filing to include "names and professional qualifications of any mental health experts whose testimony he may introduce at trial," along with a list of tests used by those experts and a summary of any matters those experts will address so the government can prepare for rebuttal. They are also calling for the notice to be final, not "subject to revision at will."

The defense motion calls for them to be able to supplement that sealed notice up to Sep. 12.

Another issue of contention is how the government will be allowed to test Roof by their experts. The defense is calling for the government experts to conduct "comparable testing," for defense counsel to be present during the government's testing, and for the government to provide a list of tests to be conducted in advance.

The defense also wants the results and reports of any examination to be sealed and not disclosed to any attorney on either side "unless and until the defendant is found guilty of one or more capital crimes." The defense also seeks to restrict the use of the government's examination results to rebut expert defense testimony during the sentencing phase of the trial on the issue of Roof's mental condition.

The prosecutors call for a "firewall Assistant U.S. Attorney from outside the District of South Carolina" to be appointed to "handle all pretrial matters...relating to mental health issues."

"The adoption of a firewalled process permits the Court to protect the defendant's rights, including the right to assert mental health evidence and arguments, while also ensuring that the government has a meaningful opportunity to review and respond to the defendant's assertions without unduly delaying the trial process," the prosecution's motion states.

The defense proposes the government not be allowed to electronically record any examination of the defendant without express written permission.

The motion from Roof's team also states the defendant "may elect, at any time prior to presenting mental health evidence, to withdraw his intent to rely on
mental health evidence, at which point the government has no right to use its rebuttal evidence."

The prosecution's motion calls for adequate access for government expects to examine Roof and a "timely and comprehensive disclosure of the opinions and information relied upon by the defense expert."

"When a defendant places his own mental health at issue by filing a Rule 12.2 notice, he waives the right to remain silent and creates the need for the type of government examination that is essential to the review and consideration of the defendant's assertions," the prosecution's motion states.

On the subject of medical records, the defense team's motion states the government is entitled to Roof's medical records, but states Roof should not be required to provide them with "any material supplied to defense experts other than defendant's medical records, unless and until the defendant is required to disclose the results and reports from his own experts' Rule 12.2 examination about which the defendant intends to introduce expert evidence."

Within 10 days of the government's examination being completed, Roof's mental health experts must provide the government's experts with all of Roof's medical records which the defendant's experts relied on for their reports, the defense team proposes.

The government's motion, meanwhile, calls for Roof to disclose to the firewall counsel and Government expert "all medical records upon which his experts rely to any extent for their reports, all materials supplied on behalf of Roof to the defense experts, including but not limited to reports of interviews, third-party documents, reports and memoranda; and a list of citations or copies of any and all research articles or studies on which any defense expert relied to any extent in reaching any conclusion or opinion; the defense experts' raw data, including any testing and examinations; and the defense experts results and reports."

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