CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) — Attorneys will will meet 320 potential jurors Monday as they whittle down a group of 3,000 to a dozen with six alternates.
For the last week, attorneys for the government and for 22-year-old Dylann Roof, accused of killing nine parishioners inside Emanuel AME Church during a bible study session, have been considering potential jurors’ excuses to avoid serving on the jury in November
It’s expected as many as half of those who were summoned would either not return the questionnaire or would try to exempt themselves.
Monday starts the process of whittling down those people who have not presented excuses to the court.
During four hearings — 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. — groups of 80 potential jurors will start the process of being selected for the jury. Those who are not dismissed will go into a separate room to fill out a case-specific questionnaire and will return in November for final seating.
Potential jurors called so far are from Charleston, Daniel Island, Mt. Pleasant, Beaufort, and North Charleston.
Out of the first 80, four people were excused including two men and two women. The women were both teachers so their service was deferred until school is out. One of the men excused has a wife who needs medical care while the other had a medical condition himself.
The intention of the court is to use this week’s hearings as a way to amass a group of 700 who take the jury-specific questionnaire.
Judge Gergel gave rules to the potential jurors, saying to stay away from news reports and the Internet. He said has no plans to sequester the jury.
Roof, who faces dozens of federal hate crimes charges, will be in the courtroom this week.
The government is seeking the death penalty, something his attorneys have argued is unconstitutional.
His trial begins on Nov. 7 with final jury selection. While arguments were slated to begin as early as Nov. 14, Judge Gergel said Monday that arguments would not start before Thanksgiving. He also said if the trial continues into Christmas, court would break until after the new year.