Dylann Roof’s Request For Bench Trial Denied
On June 17, 2015, Dylann Roof staged a massacre at the Emanuel AME Church during Bible study. Among those who killed were Pastor Clementa Pinckney. Roof has been charged under South Carolina law where prosecutors seek the death penalty. He has also been charged under federal law.
Roof, 22-years old, is charged with murder and attempted murder on the state level. Federal prosecutors have charged Roof with 33 counts, including hate crimes, obstruction of religion, and firearms offenses.
On June 7, 2016, federal Judge Richard M. Gergel scheduled Roof’s trial to begin on a November 7, 2016. The trial is estimated to take about 6 weeks. The judge turned down an earlier request by the South Carolina prosecutor, Scarlett A. Wilson, to allow the state’s trial to go forth first. It is scheduled for January, 2017. Jury selection in the state trial is due to start in early December, which could overlap with the federal proceedings.
To select 12 impartial jurors, Judge Gergel planned to have 1,500 prospective jurors called statewide for jury duty. Jury selection includes 12 and 6 alternates. Roof’s attorneys filed a document that Roof will waive his right to a trial by jury. The filing does not give a reason for why Roof wants to waive a trial by jury.
Federal prosecutors have to agree with the motion, and have said that they will not consent to waive a jury at either stage of the case. Trial to determine guilty of innocence is one stage. If found guilty, sentencing is another stage.
Today, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel denied Roof’s request for a bench trial. He also ordered that jurors will hear arguments on a possible death sentence for Dylann Roof if he’s convicted of capital crimes in his federal trial.
Roof’s defense attorney David Bruck said that Roof is willing to offer a plea of guilty if federal prosecutors take capital punishment off the table.
Being charged at the state and federal levels reminds of the Timothy McVeigh trial. McVeigh was charged with 8 counts for the deaths of federal employees in what is commonly called the Oklahoma City bombing. Oklahoma charged McVeigh with 160 counts of murder. Because McVeigh was convicted and sentenced to death, the State of Oklahoma did not proceed on the murder charges for the other 160 deaths.