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US seeking death penalty as trial begins in South Carolina church shooting

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The final phase of jury selection begins on Monday in the U.S. death penalty trial for a white man charged with federal hate crimes after the shooting deaths of nine black parishioners at a historic South Carolina church last year.

Dylann Roof, who is accused of holding white supremacist views, was indicted on 33 federal counts of hate crimes, obstruction of religion and using a firearm in a violent crime after he opened fire during a Bible study session at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston in June 2015.

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The proceedings getting underway at the U.S. courthouse in Charleston will unfold as another racially-charged trial progresses across the street. Michael Slager, a white former police officer in North Charleston, is being tried for murder in state court in the shooting of black motorist Walter Scott in April 2015.

The two incidents, which occurred just two months apart, shook the country and further intensified the debate over U.S. race relations.

In Roof’s case, lawyers could take about two weeks to cull the remaining potential jurors. More than 700 people filled out questionnaires about the case when jury selection began in September, out of 3,000 summoned for the trial. Twelve jurors and 6 alternates will hear the testimony.

If Roof is convicted, the penalty phase of the trial could extend into January. Roof, 22, has offered to plead guilty if the death penalty was dropped, court filings show.

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He also faces a death sentence if found guilty of murder in state court in a trial scheduled for next year.

Prosecutors say Roof planned the church attack for months, singling out victims who were black and elderly, and showing no remorse. At the federal trial, they plan to present racist manifestos that he purportedly wrote in an effort to incite a race war.

Roof’s attorneys declined to comment ahead of the trial, and his family has asked for privacy.

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“We are still struggling to understand why Dylann caused so much grief and pain to so many good people,” the family said in a statement last week.

Relatives of the victims have been divided on the decision to seek capital punishment, after some tearfully offered words of forgiveness during Roof’s first court appearance.

The city plans an outpouring of support during the trial, with restaurants donating daily lunches to family members attending court.

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“How they chose to respond to the tragedy made the difference,” said Helen Hill, executive director of the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau. “They are a model of how you can truly bring about long-lasting change.” (Additional reporting and writing by Letitia Stein; Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Bernard Orr)

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… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

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Priest bound and gagged teen boy with masking tape and held him hostage in church’s janitor room

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A Michigan Catholic priest has been charged with one count of false imprisonment after he wrapped a teenage boy in plastic wrap and covered his eyes and mouth with masking tape, all while trapping him in the janitor's room of a church, ClickOnDetroit reports.

Rev. Brian Stanley, 57, faces up to 15 years in prison and would also have to register as a sex offender if convicted.

Stanley was reportedly entrusted by the teen's family as a counselor before the incident took place in the fall of 2013 at St. Margaret's Catholic Church in Otsego.

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Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Fox News ripped to shreds by media analyst for running state-news network briefing for Trump

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Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple unleashed hellfire on former press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Fox News for hiring her to deliver the White House spin for the president on their air.

Fox News, which has only modest actual news reporting outside of its opinion arm, but that's no reason to hire a liar to the network, he explained.

He cited the greatest hits from the Huckabee-Sanders show that happened less and less frequently from the White House podium. He included everything from the time she doctored a video of CNN's Jim Acosta to accuse him of assaulting a White House intern to her accusation of "fake news" to every question she didn't like.

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Brutal new recession indicator: Manufacturing sector contracts for the first time in a decade

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Warning signs keep piling up that the American economy is slowing down, if not headed for an outright recession.

CNBC reports that IHS Markit's U.S. manufacturing purchasing managers index this month contracted for the first time since September 2009.

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