Prosecutors and defense attorneys for Dylann Roof gathered in a courtroom Tuesday afternoon for the first time since federal authorities announced they would pursue his execution.
At the 2 p.m. hearing Judge Richard Gergel in U.S. District Court in downtown Charleston set the date for his trial for Nov. 7.
Gergel says the trial is happening far faster than most death penalty trials.
Only a "shot out of the dark" would delay Dylann Roof trial from the Nov. 7 date, he said.
This move by defense puts federal trial before state, which historically has been more likely to execute people.
Accused of killing 9 worshippers last year at Charleston's Emanuel AME Church, Roof is thought to be the 1st criminal defendant to face the death penalty in 2 separate courts at the same time. How the courts juggle the 2 cases could blaze new legal ground.
The state's murder case against the 21-year-old Eastover man had been moving along at a seemingly steady clip. State prosecutors announced early on that they planned to pursue his execution, and a judge scheduled the trial for July. But the date was later pushed back to January.
Meanwhile, Attorney General Loretta Lynch held back from announcing the federal government's death penalty intentions until last month. Gergel expressed frustration with the government during earlier hearings as he agreed to postpone the case 4 times while awaiting the development.
But with Lynch's decision, Gergel finally set a date for Roof's trial on 33 federal charges, including hate crimes and religious rights violations.
Also is possible that Roof will be at trial in fed court while trial for Michael Slager is ending in state court. The state trial is set for January but solicitor had asked judge to set federal trial after hers. Today's move does opposite.
The court is considering calling 1,200 to 1,500 potential jurors from across South Carolina for the Roof trial. The jury selection is expected to last 3 weeks; guilt phase 2 weeks and then a break. Then penalty phase would probably last another 2 weeks.
Without an agreement between the governments on which should prosecute Roof 1st, state and federal prosecutors have left such decisions with the judges overseeing the cases.
Source: The Post and Courier, June 7, 2016