CHARLESTON, S.C., April 13 (UPI) — The state trial of Dylann Roof, accused of shooting nine people to death in a South Carolina church, was delayed until 2017 so a psychiatric examination can be completed.
In an emergency session, Circuit Judge J.C. Nicholson granted the continuance that defense attorneys had requested after a doctor’s evaluation indicated six more months of examination was required. Nicholson’s ruling came with conditions: The case must go to trial by January 17, and a monthly report from the evaluating doctor must be presented to the judge. The trial is set to begin Jan. 17, 2017, with jury qualifications to start Dec. 6, 2016.
Roof, 22, who is white, was charged with murder in the shooting deaths of nine African-American parishioners at the historic Emanuel AME Church in Charleston in June 2015. If convicted he is eligible for the death penalty, but much of the evidence his lawyers seek would be pertinent to their fight for a life sentence, instead of the death penalty, if Roof is found guilty.
Roof was not present at the hearing Wednesday.
Prior to Wednesday’s hearing in state court, Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson, the prosecuting attorney, said she would agree to a reasonable delay in the proceedings. Because of the doctor’s recommendation for additional evaluation, she did not oppose a continuance in court Wednesday.
In a separate case Roof also faces federal charges, for which he could also receive the death penalty if found guilty. Prosecutors in that case have not decided whether to pursue the death penalty, an issue that has caused four delays in six months, most recently on April 5. Although federal District Judge Richard M. Gergel granted another continuance, he commented, “We are getting to a point where we need to make a decision. Our patience is running out. There are victims here. They have a right to put this behind them.”
David Bruck, Roof’s attorney, has said his client will plead guilty if the death penalty is not sought.