Attorneys for accused S.C. church shooter seek evidence
Columbia, S.C. — Prosecutors must share whatever evidence they have against the white man accused of killing nine black churchgoers in Charleston, defense attorneys argued Thursday.
In court papers, lawyers for 21-year-old Dylann Roof wrote that they want all documents, reports, witness statements and recordings the state plans to use in its case against their client.
The request is fairly routine in a criminal case, and a judge will rule on it later.
Last week, state prosecutor Scarlett Wilson said she will pursue the death penalty against Roof in the June 17 shootings of nine black parishioners at Emanuel AME Church.
Addressing reporters outside her Charleston office, Wilson said the deliberate massacre required her to seek the most serious punishment the state allows. Autopsies determined each victim was shot multiple times and police said Roof spent nearly an hour at a Wednesday night Bible study before opening fire.
“This was the ultimate crime, and justice from our state calls for the ultimate punishment,” Wilson said, reading a three-minute statement. She took no questions.
A judge will hear arguments next week on whether documents, including 911 calls, from the church shootings should be released to the media.
Various news organizations, including The Associated Press, are challenging the judge’s earlier order preventing attorneys from discussing the case and preventing the release of 911 calls, witness statements and coroner reports. The gag order remains in effect until the hearing is held.
The judge has previously said Roof’s right to a fair trial could be jeopardized by pretrial publicity.
Roof is also charged under U.S. hate crime laws, and federal prosecutors haven’t decided if they too will seek the death penalty. Federal authorities have said Roof wrote online about fomenting racial violence and used racial slurs in a personal manuscript decrying integration.
His attorneys in the federal case have said their client would like to plead guilty but that they can’t advise him to do so until they know if the government will pursue death.
Also on Thursday, a scheduling notice was filed in Roof’s federal case setting a Nov. 2 meeting for attorneys, after which a trial date on those charges could be set. The notice also sets jury selection in that case for Nov. 3.