A federal judge has delayed jury selection until Wednesday morning in the trial of accused Emanuel AME Church shooter Dylann Roof after a surprise late motion by Roof’s attorneys.
The announcement from District Judge Richard Gergel came after he suddenly delayed proceedings at the federal courthouse in Charleston on Monday, following a sealed motion Sunday, according to court records. The nature of the filing was not clear. Gergel had emptied the courtroom to hear from defense attorneys, reading a brief statement before he did so that said the motion required his “immediate attention.”
“The closing of the hearing is necessary to protect the attorney client privilege and the defendant’s right to a fair and impartial jury and a fair trial,” Gergel stated. “I fully recognize that this notice provided is short but under the circumstances it is necessary for the court to proceed with the hearing immediately.”
Gergel said his court could provide a redacted transcript for the meeting that involved only himself and Roof’s attorney. Justice Department prosecutors and media were not permitted in the room. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson did not object to the decision, but said the Emanuel AME victims’ were frustrated that they could not be present.
After a few hours, the court notified new outlets that the jury selection hearings would be postponed a day until Wednesday at 9 a.m. (federal courts are closed for Election Day on Tuesday).
Meanwhile, Charleston police and the FBI indicated they have opened an investigation after learning about at least nine anonymous letters sent to hotels, Emanuel AME Church and a county park in the past few weeks that make non-specific threats of racially and religiously motivated violence. One note mentioned Roof specifically by name.