Charleston Church Murder Trial Set for 2016

     CHARLESTON, S.C. (CN) – Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old accused of killing nine at Emanuel AME Church here last month will go to trial this time next year, a judge said Thursday, setting a tentative trial date of July 11.
     The 24-minute hearing was Roof’s first court appearance since a June 19 bail hearing held following his arrest. Unlike that hearing, for which Roof appeared via close-circuit television, the accused gunman was actually in court for the formal start of the legal proceedings against him.
     He faces nine murder charges, three attempted murder charges and a firearms charge in the June 17 shootings during a Bible study class at the church.
     During the hearing, Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson told Judge J.C. Nicholson that she has not yet decided whether to pursue the death penalty against Roof.
     Roof’s public defender, Ashley Pennington, told the judge that there were no issues at this time regarding Roof’s mental competence to stand trial.
     Roof sat silently throughout the session, his expression registering no emotion and scant interest while his fate was being discussed.
     Nicholson also addressed the gag order he handed down last week, prohibiting everyone involved in the case from commenting on the case, and sealing all court documents that have so far been created from it.
     Nicholson said his order is only intended to be temporary, and that he has no desire to make it permanent unless asked to do so by prosecutors, law enforcement, the victims’ families or the defense.
     He is giving all interested parties until next Wednesday at 5 p.m. to file their concerns about releasing any pretrial information to the media.
     Among the items under seal are recordings of the 911 calls that followed the shootings, witness statements, crime scene photos and the reports compiled by the Charleston County coroner.
     Roof, an alleged white supremacist, has purportedly said he she shot the black church members because he wanted to start a race war. Something very different took place, however, when relatives of the victims, which included the church’s pastor, state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, publicly forgave the alleged gunman for what he had done.
     That inspired a series of events that ultimately led to the Confederate flag being removed from the South Carolina statehouse grounds.

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