A U.S. judge on Tuesday set a Nov. 7 date for the federal trial of the white man accused of killing nine black parishioners in a racially motivated attack at a church in Charleston a year ago.
The trial date set by U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel puts the federal proceedings, in which prosecutors will seek the death penalty for Dylann Roof, ahead of a state capital punishment trial scheduled for January.
Gergel said up to 1,500 people from across South Carolina could be called as possible jurors when the federal case goes to trial.
Federal prosecutors said last month that they intended to pursue capital punishment for Roof should he be convicted of the June 17, 2015, killings during a Bible study at Charleston’s historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
State prosecutors had signaled their plans to seek the death penalty last year and asked Gergel to allow the state murder case to go first.
Jury selection in the state trial is due to start in early December, which could overlap with the federal proceedings. Gergel estimated on Tuesday that jury selection and the guilt and penalty phases of the federal trial could last six weeks.
Roof, 22, faces 33 federal charges, including hate crimes, obstruction of religion and firearms offenses. His lawyers have said he would agree to plead guilty rather than go to trial if prosecutors ruled out capital punishment.
Defense attorney David Bruck said his client’s offer to plead guilty still stands.
“Our plea offer has not been withdrawn and will never be withdrawn,” Bruck said during the court hearing in Charleston.
Roof and more than a dozen family members of the shooting victims attended the hearing, held ahead of the first anniversary of the shooting next week.
A number of remembrance events are planned in Charleston, including a Bible study and service at the church and a service at the arena where President Barack Obama last year gave the eulogy for the church’s slain pastor.
Bernice King, daughter of the slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., will be the keynote speaker at an event in the city on June 18.
(Reporting by Harriet McLeod; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Dan Grebler)
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"I don't know how much political damage that tweet is going to do, Neil, but certainly I think there was a lot of damage here at the White House to a collective group of foreheads as people went like this..." Roberts said, while mimicking someone smacking their forehead in frustration. "...as the President tweeted that out right in the middle of the hearing."
‘American hero’ Marie Yovanovitch gets standing ovation ‘drowning out and effectively answering’ GOP’s ‘limp objections’
'Poignant and Perfect'
Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch was heralded with a standing ovation as her five-plus hours of calm and patriotic testimony ended and House Republicans tried to commandeer the last whiffs of Friday's impeachment proceedings.
Republicans demanded they be given extra time to speak as the hearing was gaveled to a close, claiming they had been disparaged and had the right to respond.
They did not.
As she stood and began to walk away, audience members in the gallery cheered, and gave Ambassador Yovanovitch a standing ovation.
‘This is not about tweets!’ GOP lawmaker deflects wildly when asked about Trump’s attacks on Yovanovitch
Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) on Friday was not happy to be asked about President Donald Trump's tweets attacking former American ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.
During a press conference that occurred after the day's impeachment hearings, Stefanik tried to make the case that nothing in Yovanovitch's testimony provided any reason to impeach the president.
She was thrown off her game, however, when a reporter asked her whether the president's tweet harmed her party's ability to send a consistent message.
"We're not here to talk about tweets but impeachable offenses!" she angrily replied. "Let me answer your question. These hearings are not about tweets. They are about impeachment of the president of United States. This is a constitutional matter."