The judge in the Dylann Roof federal death penalty trial has denied a motion by attorneys to delay the trial.
Roof’s attorneys wanted to delay the trial because of the publicity surrounding the mistrial in a former police officer’s case. Roof’s lawyers filed the request Tuesday.
“The Court cannot respond to every breaking news story or development in the local court system by continuing a trial that has been scheduled since June 2016 or reopening comprehensive and completed voir dire,” US District Judge Richard Gergel stated Tuesday night.”The Court must maintain the orderly process of criminal trials.”
Jury selection is expected to start Wednesday in Charleston, where a mistrial was declared earlier this week for former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager.
The motion states the Slager mistrial, “declared less than 48 hours before the scheduled start of the trial in this case, is highly likely to create undue pressure on the jury to compensate for the judicial system’s apparent failure to punish Mr. Slager by imposing a harsher punishment here.”
Attorneys cite recent news articles and interviews that mention the Roof trial seemingly right along side the Slager trial, adding, “With the widely-held view that justice has not been served in the Slager trial…we have grave doubt whether the defendant can receive a fair trial.”
An order also filed on Tuesday states U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel denied a defense motion to strike the jury panel that has already been qualified. In the order, Gergel states on the same day he granted a defense motion to allow Roof’s standby counsel to be reinstated as his attorneys, the defense team filed a motion to strike the panel and redo individual voir dire, or interviews for prospective jurors, Roof’s attorneys made the request, the order states, because they felt Roof should not have been able to represent himself during the voir dire process and “frequently ignored the advice of his experienced [standby] counsel.”
“The argument essentially repackages the same arguments defense counsel previously raised while acting as Defendant’s standby counsel that the Court rejected,” Gergel said. “The jury selection process in this case has been searching, thorough, and fair.”
Roof’s attorneys say if U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel goes forward, he at least needs to question the jury pool extensively about their opinions in the Slager case.
Race plays a central role in both cases. Slager, who is white, shot and killed a black driver who fled a traffic stop.
Roof is charged with killing nine people at an African-American church in June 2015.