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Defense seeks mistrial in church shooting case

Bruce Smith
Associated Press

Charleston, S.C. — Defense attorneys are asking for a mistrial in Dylann Roof’s death-penalty trial, saying a witness’s remarks that he is evil and belongs in the “pit of hell” were inappropriate.

Roof is on trial on 33 federal counts, including hate crimes, in the June 2015 shootings of nine black parishioners during a Bible study at Emanuel AME Church last year.

In a motion filed Thursday morning, the defense asks for a mistrial after shooting survivor Felicia Sanders took the stand Wednesday and called Roof “evil, evil, evil” and said he should be in “the pit of hell.”

In the motion, the defense said such statements have no place in a courtroom. The motion asks that, if a mistrial is not granted, prosecutors be prohibited from mentioning the testimony in their closing arguments. The court has not yet taken up the motion.

The attorneys defending Roof are largely conceding his guilt in the shooting deaths of nine black parishioners at Emanuel AME Church. Their attention is on keeping their client out of the death chamber.