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Trial Delayed for Charleston Church Shooter Dylan Roof, Death Penalty is Debated

Dylann Storm Roof appears by closed-circuit television at his bond hearing in Charleston, South Carolina June 19, 2015 in a still image from video. A 21-year-old white man has been charged with nine counts of murder in connection with an attack on a historic black South Carolina church, police said on Friday, and media reports said he had hoped to incite a race war in the United States. REUTERS/POOL TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTX1HB17
Dylann Storm Roof via REUTERS

 

A South Carolina federal judge held hearings Tuesday in two cases pertaining to the shooting deaths of nine Black church-goers at the historic Emanuel AME Church in South Carolina — and one has resulted in another delayed trial.

Prosecutors in the Charleston case discussed on Tuesday with U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel the status of cases against both Dylann Roof and his friend, Joey Meek.

Meek is accused of knowing about Roof’s plan to execute Black church-goers before it took place last year. He did not inform authorities of the planned attack and remained silent until his arrest. Meek’s trial is scheduled for 9 a.m. June 27, according to reports from The Post and Courier in South Carolina.

According to The Associated Press, Roof has been charged with nine counts of murder in state court for the 2015 attack. In addition, he has been charged with hate crimes and other counts in federal court.

As of now, federal prosecutors haven’t announced if they would seek the death penalty. However, the state will seek death in Roof’s state trial, which is set for July.

U.S. District Judge Gergel issued the delay yesterday urging the federal government to make a decision regarding the 22-year-old Roof, who plans to plead guilty if the death penalty isn’t handed down.

In the aftermath of the shooting in June of last year, South Carolina was a powder keg for racial tension. The South Carolina legislature removed the Confederate flag from state grounds, Black activists and Ku Klux Klan members frequently faced off during demonstrations all the while state prosecutors in South Carolina announced their decision to pursue the death penalty against Roof last year.

Since August 6, 1912, there have been 282 executions carried out in the state, and nearly two-thirds of those people were Black men imprisoned for murder, according to data from the South Carolina Department of Corrections. One high-profile execution happened in 2011. Jeffrey Motts, who was white, was executed for three killings over a decade’s span.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a news conference yesterday that she will announce a decision soon on the death penalty as well as what federal charges Roof will face.

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