Judge sets Wednesday as start of federal Dylann Roof trial

VIDEO: Roof's standby counsel files motion to stop Roof from representing himself
Published: Dec. 1, 2016 at 1:54 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 1, 2016 at 6:56 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The judge in the federal death penalty trial of the man charged in the Charleston church shooting that claimed nine victims set Wednesday as the start of the trial.

Dylann Roof, 22, faces 33 federal charges in the June 17, 2015, shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church that killed nine parishioners including the church's pastor, State Sen. and the Rev. Clementa Pinckney. Authorities say the shooting was racially motivated.

Roof requested a two-day delay after jury selection in order to prepare for trial since he is representing himself.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel said he would give Roof Monday and Tuesday to prepare, and to be ready for opening statements by Wednesday.

Roof announced in court Thursday morning that if jury qualification is completed by Friday, which is expected, a pretrial conference will be held Monday. Court would not be in session on Tuesday and then on Wednesday, a final jury will be selected and the trial will then begin, Gergel said.

Roof filed an objection to the court proceedings Thursday, arguing the court is not allowing his standby counsel to offer him the level of guidance the Constitution guarantees.

Roof wrote that his constitutional rights are being violated, because of the court's refusal to authorize the assistance he's requested from stand counsel.

Roof asked to represent himself and the judge allowed it. But since then, his standby counsel, and Roof himself, have asked for them to be able to participate more.

The judge has been clear in saying "no," stating that Roof and his lawyers asked for this despite his warning.

In a filing, the defense writes that Roof representing himself is not a "tactic". Citing a BuzzFeed article, they say the general consensus is that it'll actually work against him.

Also during Thursday's hearing, a potential juror's Facebook post was in question. Roof requested his standby counsel read the post because he says it was a sensitive about himself.

The judge gave permission this one time only for counsel to speak in court. The post that was under scrutiny read,"The disgusting man who committed this crime."

When questioned about the post the juror said he didn't remember making any posts, and when it was shown to him he admitted he wrote the post.

That juror was later struck. There's still a lengthy number of potential jurors to go through in this second panel.

So far 53 people have qualified in the jury selection process; 10 jurors were chosen from the jury pool on Thursday.

Once 70 prospective jurors have been selected, a jury of 12 and six alternates will be culled from that group.

Wednesday's hearing lasted longer than the previous two days because of the number of jurors brought in and the number of follow-up questions from the prosecution and defense.

A total of 17 jurors qualified on Wednesday; of them, 15 are women and two are men and at least four are black. Two potential jurors questioned Wednesday also had a connection to the case.

One juror, an AME pastor, said he knew three of the victims and was still grieving. The juror was ruled out.

Another juror said a co-worker went to school with Roof. She said her co-worker remembered him as "quiet" and "respectful."

In order to be fair and impartial, prospective jurors must be able to confidently say they could impose the death penalty barring any religious or personal objection, a requirement some struggled with.

A couple of people said their answers changed from the time they filled out questionnaires a couple of months ago, because of the sheer amount of thought and soul-searching they put into the question.

Many of those questioned say they are aware of the competency hearing held earlier this month, but said that knowledge wouldn't sway them as jurors.

Copyright 2016 WCSC. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.