Several hundred people reported to the U.S. courthouse in Charleston, South Carolina, on Monday for the start of jury selection in the death penalty case against a white man who shot dead nine black parishioners in a church in June 2015.
Prosecutors have said the man, Dylann Roof, 22, is an avowed white supremacist who carried out a racially motivated attack. Defense lawyers have said he would plead guilty if prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty.
Roof sat in shackles and kept his head down as U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel explained the timeline for the trial, which begins on Nov. 7.
Roof faces 33 counts of hate crimes, obstruction of religion and firearms charges in the shooting deaths of the parishioners during a Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.
Twelve jurors and six alternates will be chosen from a total of 3,000 people summoned from several counties for the trial. The final jury panel will be selected after a smaller group is questioned further in court in November.
Jurors will not be sequestered, but the court will pay for their hotel rooms in Charleston, Gergel said.
The judge urged people to avoid researching the case or talking to anyone about it but acknowledged that the killings had received wide publicity.
“I know that many of you have seen, read or heard about this case,” Gergel said.
Roof also faces murder and attempted murder charges in state court, with jury selection in that trial set for January.
President Obama on the tragic shooting in Charleston, South Carolina.
Good afternoon, everybody. This morning, I spoke with, and Vice President Biden spoke with, Mayor Joe Riley and other leaders of Charleston to express our deep sorrow over the senseless murders that took place last night.
Michelle and I know several members of Emanuel AME Church. We knew their pastor, Reverend Clementa Pinckney, who, along with eight others, gathered in prayer and fellowship and was murdered last night. And to say our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families, and their community doesn’t say enough to convey the heartache and the sadness and the anger that we feel.
Any death of this sort is a tragedy. Any shooting involving multiple victims is a tragedy. There is something particularly heartbreaking about the death happening in a place in which we seek solace and we seek peace, in a place of worship.
Mother Emanuel is, in fact, more than a church. This is a place of worship that was founded by African Americans seeking liberty. This is a church that was burned to the ground because its worshipers worked to end slavery. When there were laws banning all-black church gatherings, they conducted services in secret. When there was a nonviolent movement to bring our country closer in line with our highest ideals, some of our brightest leaders spoke and led marches from this church’s steps. This is a sacred place in the history of Charleston and in the history of America.
The FBI is now on the scene with local police, and more of the Bureau’s best are on the way to join them. The Attorney General has announced plans for the FBI to open a hate crime investigation. We understand that the suspect is in custody. And I’ll let the best of law enforcement do its work to make sure that justice is served.
Until the investigation is complete, I’m necessarily constrained in terms of talking about the details of the case. But I don’t need to be constrained about the emotions that tragedies like this raise. I’ve had to make statements like this too many times. Communities like this have had to endure tragedies like this too many times. We don’t have all the facts, but we do know that, once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun. Now is the time for mourning and for healing.
A reminder: Dylann Roof murdered 9 people and got a burger king meal from the cops. Sandra Bland failed to use a turn signal properly and ended up dead in police custody soon after in the most suspicious circumstances ever.
“Any death of this sort is a tragedy, any shooting involving multiple victims is a tragedy,” he said. “There is something particularly heartbreaking about death happening at a place in which we seek solace and we seek peace.”
The identities of the nine victims of Wednesday night’s shooting at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, have been released.
Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Cynthia Hurd, Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Myra Thompson, Ethel Lance, Rev. Daniel Simmons, Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor and Susie Jackson were shot and killed by a gunman around 9 p.m. Wednesday during a prayer meeting inside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
The Charleston county coroner, Rae Wooton, confirmed the victims’ names at a 3 p.m. press conference. All suffered gunshots, she said.
“We will be continuing our investigation through many means, including autopsy,” Wooton added. “While the autopsies are not expected to provide us any real, new information, it’s important to the process.”
CHARLESTON, S.C. – Dylann Roof heard his charges – nine counts of murder – at his first court appearance in South Carolina on Friday afternoon.
Roof, the lead suspect in Wednesday’s mass shooting at a historic black church in Charleston, made his appearance remotely, dressed in striped inmates’ garb and flanked by two officers. On the screen, he wore a stoic expression as he looked out over the bond hearing.
In the wake of tonight’s tragic shooting incident at the church Denmark Vesey founded via slave revolt in Charleston, South Carolina, here’s some facts to know about Vesey.
Widespread recognition for Denmark Vesey has been a long time coming. In 1822, in Charleston, South Carolina, Vesey masterminded what would have been the largest slave revolt in American history. When an informer revealed the plans at the last minute and the revolt was nipped in the bud, Charleston authorities downplayed the story, claiming that they had “allowed” the plot to progress so as to ensure the capture of its leaders. Fearing future attempts at insurrection, Charleston slaveowners had Vesey and many of his co-conspirators put to death, and hid written records of the Vesey episode from their slaves. Vesey’s legacy was, for all intents and purposes, buried and forgotten.
In the June, 1861, issue there appeared a detailed account of Vesey’s planned revolt and its suppression, titled “Denmark Vesey.” Its author, a frequent Atlantic contributor named Thomas Wentworth Higginson, was a Cambridge, Massachusetts, minister and a committed abolitionist. (In other issues of the magazine Higginson documented the stories of revolts by Toussaint L'Overture and Nat Turner. In 1862 he served as colonel of the first black regiment in the Civil War, the First South Carolina Volunteers.)
In his Atlantic account Higginson described Vesey’s plan (which was developed in collaboration with a slave named Peter Poyas) as “the most elaborate insurrectionary project ever formed by American slaves…. In boldness of conception and thoroughness of organization there has been nothing to compare it with.” Higginson went on:
That a conspiracy on so large a scale should have existed in embryo during four years, and in an active form for several months, and yet have been so well managed … shows extraordinary ability in the leaders, and a talent for concerted action on the part of the slaves generally with which they have hardly been credited.
Vesey was no longer a slave at the time he planned the revolt—he had purchased his own freedom several years before, so his motives were not self-serving—and Charleston’s official report of the episode, as quoted by Higginson, made note of Vesey’s pride and the strength of his convictions. “Even whilst walking through the streets in company with another,” the report stated, “he was not idle; for if his companion bowed to a white person, he would rebuke him, and observe that all men were born equal.” At the trial, the sentencing judge was plainly astonished in the face of the stoic heroism displayed by Vesey throughout his ordeal. Higginson quoted the judge addressing Vesey:
“It is difficult to imagine, what infatuation could have prompted you to attempt an enterprise so wild and visionary. You were a free man, comely, wealthy, and enjoyed every comfort compatible with your situation. You had, therefore, much to risk and little to gain.”
As though responding to the judge four decades after the fact, Higginson posed a rhetorical question: “Is slavery, then, a thing so intrinsically detestable, that a man thus favored will engage in a plan this desperate merely to rescue his children from it?”
Higginson’s goal was the preservation of Vesey’s story for future generations. “South Carolinians,” he wrote in conclusion,
[now have] a distaste for the memory of the tale; and the official reports which told what slaves had once planned and dared have now come to be among the rarest of American historical documents…. This is why, to the readers of American history, Denmark Vesey and Peter Poyas have been heretofore but the shadows of names.