Dylann Roof's federal death penalty trial is set to begin with jury selection this week in a case that will determine whether his alleged hate crimes in the 2015 Charleston shooting warrant the death penalty or life in prison.
According to the Christian Science Monitor, prosecutors and the defense will begin selecting a 12-person jury out of a potential pool of over 500 people on Monday, and those selected will be deciding Roof’s destiny, whether that be life in prison or death.
Roof, 22, is charged with fatally shooting nine people and wounding three others at a Wednesday night Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., in the summer of 2015, CSM noted. He offered to plead guilty to all charges if the death penalty was taken off the table, which could have saved the city both time and money, but prosecutors refused to make the deal, saying the nature of the crimes warrant the death penalty.
“A sentence of life in prison without the possibility of release allows for hope,” said Judy Clarke, one of Roof’s lawyers. “Mercy’s never earned; it’s bestowed. And the law allows you to choose justice and mercy.”
According to Fox 43, Roof said he picked the Charleston church to provoke a race war.
The federal trial, which will focus on Roof’s racially and religiously motivated hate crimes, will be his first before undergoing a second trial in 2017, where he’ll face murder charges, CSM noted. Both of these trials make him eligible for the death penalty.
According to the Charleston City Paper, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel said opening statements could start later this month or by early December, but would likely carry over into the new year due to the holiday season.
Roof’s long list of federal charges consists of 33, Fox 43 noted, including “nine counts of violating the Hate Crime Act resulting in death; three counts of violating the Hate Crime Act involving an attempt to kill; nine counts of obstruction of exercise of religion resulting in death; three counts of obstruction of exercise of religion involving an attempt to kill and use of a dangerous weapon; nine counts of use of a firearm to commit murder during and in relation to a crime of violence.”
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