The state prosecutor trying accused Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof says trying Roof in federal court in November for hate crimes and other charges interferes with both his scheduled January state trial and the victims’ and jurors’ holidays.
Roof’s federal trial in the Emanuel AME shootings is set for Nov. 7 and attorneys say it could last six weeks. The 22-year-old also faces nine counts of murder in state court in January.
Scarlett Wilson, who said she raised the concerns during a brief court hearing Monday, said in an email to The Associated Press that November is “a horrible time for a trial for anyone.”
Wilson said the state has primary custody of Roof so he must serve his state sentence before a federal sentence regardless of who tries the case first. Both the state and the federal governments are seeking the death penalty.
The Post and Courier reported that during the hearing, Judge J.C. Nicholson said the state trial now is unlikely to happen in January because of the federal case. He made no immediate decision about the schedule.
Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel set Nov. 7 to begin selecting jurors in Roof’s federal trial. The federal trial date has been delayed a number of times as the Department of Justice weighed whether to seek the death penalty.
The decision finally was announced last month by Attorney General Loretta Lynch who said she was compelled to seek the death penalty by “the nature of the alleged crime and the resulting harm.”
Wilson said in her email the state had been waiting for the decision.
“For 11 months nobody knew what they were going to do. Nobody,” she wrote. “Meanwhile the state moved forward without hesitation. Now suddenly the federal court and the DOJ want to try this case without regard for the fact that it interferes with the previously scheduled trial and the victims’ holidays.”
She said the federal trial also interferes with the jurors’ holidays as well as a second highly publicized trial — that of Michael Slager, the former North Charleston police officer facing a murder charge in the shooting death of a black motorist in April of last year.
That trial, which Wilson also is prosecuting, is set for Oct. 31. But Slager’s attorney, Andy Savage, also represents several of the victims in the church shooting.
A hearing is set Tuesday in the Slager case in which scheduling is also expected to be discussed.