Charleston Shooting Jury Selection Going Quickly

Associated Press

Jury selection for the federal death penalty trial of Dylan Roof could be complete as early as Wednesday, said the judge presiding over the case.

Questioning of potential jurors began on Monday for Roof’s trial, in which he will face charges over the shooting deaths of nine people at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C., in 2015. As many as 3,000 people received a summons for jury qualification. Of those who respond, a certain number will be chosen for questioning and eventually 12 members and six alternates will be picked.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel said of the 320 people who were summoned for Monday, 300 responded and completed questionnaires. “I think we’ve all been pleasantly surprised with the attendance rate,” he told the Charleston Post and Courier. “We’re making progress on this. The numbers are higher than expected.”

Roof, 22, has 33 federal counts of murder in the mass shooting and is charged with hate crimes, firearms charges among other charges. A jury will decide if he will sit behind bars or face lethal injection. He is also being charged with the murder in state court. A separate trial, which will begin in January, will address those charges.

His federal trial will be in two phases: a first to decide guilt or innocence and, if he is convicted, a second to determine if he should be sentenced to life in prison or death.

Roof’s attorneys have said repeatedly their client is willing to plead guilty if the death penalty is taken off the table. But U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch has said the government is seeking death because of “the nature of the alleged crime and the resulting harm.”

He appeared in court for the procedure, but did not speak at all. He was only observed sitting with his attorneys watching the potential jurors file in.

For the Tuesday court session, 80 pool members were summoned to appear before Gergel and only four were absent. Gergel asked whether or not they were able to serve on the jury and gave them instructions regarding their handling of the case. Final jury selection begins Nov. 7 and the case will likely go through the new year.

With AP