Roof lawyer asks to keep evidence out of church trial

Bruce Smith
Associated Press

Charleston, S.C. — A lawyer defending the man charged in the Charleston church shootings wants a judge to keep some video and other evidence out of his federal hate crimes trial, and says explaining why in public could harm prospects for seating an impartial jury.

Dylann Roof, a 22-year-old white man, faces the death penalty if convicted in the shootings of nine black parishioners who welcomed him into their Bible study at the Emanuel AME Church in June 2015. Authorities said Roof posed with the Confederate battle flag before the killings and talked of trying to start a race war.

Assistant U.S. Public Defender Sarah Gannett says the evidence she wants blocked includes videos, transcripts and other documents affecting Roof’s constitutional rights to be free from unreasonable searches and self-incrimination.

In a court filing Wednesday, she asked to be allowed to file the motion under seal, arguing that “their public disclosure could affect the court’s ability to select an impartial jury and conduct a fair trial in this high-profile Federal Death Penalty Act case.”

Gannett noted that federal prosecutors are not opposed to sealing the motion.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel has not ruled on this, or a defense challenge of the constitutionality of the federal hate crimes law.

Roof also faces the death penalty if convicted of nine state murder charges. His federal trial is scheduled to start in November, followed by jury selection for his state trial next January.