Judge pushes back start date of Charleston church shooting trial

Judge pushes back start date of Charleston church shooting trial

CHARLESTON, S.C. — A judge has delayed the state death-penalty trial of a man charged with gunning down nine black parishioners during a Bible study inside a Charleston church last year.

Dylann Roof's attorneys argue in court petitions filed last Thursday that substantial preparation and investigation work remain to be done and say if the trial begins on July 11 as is now scheduled, it would deny Roof an adequate defense.

The filings don't go into detail, saying some of the reasons are contained in client-attorney and attorney work material presented to the court under seal.

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During a hearing Wednesday, the judge announced that the new trial date would be Jan. 17, 2017. Jury selection will take place on Dec. 6, 2016.

Circuit Judge J.C. Nicholson set the trial date last summer on July 16, giving both the defense and prosecution just under a year to prepare.

Roof faces multiple charges, including nine counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder stemming from the June 17, 2015 shootings at the historic Emanuel AME Church.

A pool of 600 potential jurors has been asked to report to the court on June 28. Following an initial weeding-out process, lawyers are expected to start questioning individual potential jurors by July 11.

To begin selecting a jury in that time frame "while substantial investigation and preparation remains to be done in a case that is neither factually nor legally straightforward would deny the defendant the basic tools for an adequate defense," said the motion signed by Public Defender Ashley Pennington and Roof's other attorney, William McGuire.

Roof faces numerous charges, including hate crimes, in federal court. Prosecutors have not decided whether they will seek the death penalty in that case and no trial date has been set.

The federal trial for Roof's friend, Joey Meek, is set for June 27. Federal prosecutors allege Meek did not tell investigators all he knew about Roof's plans for the church shooting.

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