A state judge Wednesday pushed back the start date for the trial of accused Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof, after prosecutors and Roof’s defense team agreed there should more time between the state’s case and the federal one.
South Carolina Circuit Judge J.C. Nicholson agreed to the delay after he refusing to set the state’s trial before the federal trial as requested by Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson. Wilson argued her office had filed charges against Roof before the Justice Department and had a more local tie to the shooting.
Roof is accused of killing nine black parishioners at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church in June 2015. He faces nine charges of murder in the state case and 33 additional charges in federal court.
“Who charged first? Who indicted first? Who announced (seeking) the death penalty first? Who had a trial date first?” Wilson said during Wednesday’s hearing. “That was all this court and the state in seeking the case was moving forward in an expeditious and efficient manner.”
But Judge Nicholson said it was not his place to get involved in a dispute between the state and federal government — and that Wilson needed to “walk across the street” to the federal courthouse with her concerns.
However, he did agree to push back the trial’s start date, which had been slated to begin in January. Jury selection will now begin on Jan. 17, instead of mid-December. Nicholson agreed after concerns that the federal case, which is scheduled to begin Nov. 7, could overlap with the state’s.
Wilson also argued Wednesday that a federal trial is much less likely to get the death penalty that prosecutors seek in both courts.
Roof’s public defender Ashley Pennington has previously called the idea of moving up the trial “reckless” in court filings. She said Wilson can still accept Roof’s previous offer to plead guilty if there is no possibility of a death sentence. Roof himself was not present at Wednesday’s hearing.