A request by Dylann Roof’s defense team to have the judge presiding over the case to declare a mistrial was denied after a heated discussion between all sides.
The team filed the request Thursday morning, arguing that the court allowed Felicia Sanders to characterize Roof as “evil.” Roof, 22, is accused of shooting and killing Sanders’ son, Tywanza, and her aunt, Susie Jackson, in addition to seven others on June 17, 2015.
At one point, Sanders got so emotional recounting her harrowing ordeal that the court abruptly went into recess.
Sanders told jurors Roof, a Columbia area man, walked in and asked if they were having Bible study that night. The group in attendance said “yes” to Roof, and Sen. Clementa Pinckney offered Roof a seat beside him, Sanders said.
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“He just sat there the whole time – evil, evil, evil as can be,” Sanders said.
Roof’s defense team said in the request for a mistrial Thursday that Sanders’ emotion was “apparent and entirely understandable.” Nonetheless, “such characterizations of the defendant are unquestionably improper in any case,” the motion said.
The defense cited previous rulings that supported their argument. They also noted that because of the emotional nature of the proceedings, Roof's mother, who collapsed in court sobbing on Wednesday, was taken to the hospital with a heart attack.
But U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel denied the request, arguing that he figured Roof’s attorney, David Bruck, was making a strategic call when he did not object to Sanders’ testimony at the time she said it on Wednesday. To allow such testimony to continue, but request parts be thrown out the next day, would “make the trial unmanageable,” Gergel said.
The second day of testimony resumed shortly after the jury re-entered the courtroom around 10:10 a.m.