(CN) – The death penalty trial of Dylann Roof, the South Carolina man accused of gunning down nine in a Charleston church last year, has been postponed to allow for additional psychiatric testing of the 22-year-old.
Roof was scheduled to be tried on nine state murder charges, three attempted murder charges and a firearms charge on July 11.
A federal grand jury also indicted Roof on 33 federal charges, but U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel had put off the scheduling of a trial in his court to allow the state case to proceed first.
On Wednesday, after an often contentious hearing, Charleston County Circuit Judge J.C. Nicholson granted a request by Roof’s court-appointed lawyers for a delay the state trial.
At the hearing, the lawyers presented information from a doctor stating that he needed another two to six months to complete his evaluation.
But Nicholson grew sharp in his questioning of defense layer William McGuire, asking why the doctors had not been hired months ago.
At one point he even accused the defense of engaging in “delaying tactics.”
But McGuire said the case is difficult and time constraints on the defense team have been “tying our hands as well.”
Roof’s new trial date is Jan. 17, 2017, with jury selection to begin in early December.
Roof is accused of slipping into a bible study class at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston on June 17, 2015, and after an hour, pulling a gun and killing nine parishioners, including pastor Clementa Pinckney, who was also a South Carolina state senator.
Roof waived his right to appear at Wednesday’s hearing, which was attended by several relatives of the victims.
Wednesday’s developments are expected to affect another high profile case in Charleston, that of former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager, the white police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black motorist last year.
Slager’s trial had been scheduled to start in October so that prosecutor Scarlett Wilson could first focus their attention on the Roof case, however with the rescheduling of that trial, Wilson said in a court filing that she is willing to trying the officer soon.
Judge Nicholson said he will hear arguments on that proposal in the near future.
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