Lawyers for the white man accused of killing nine black churchgoers last summer in Charleston, South Carolina, are in no hurry to begin defending the case in the courts, according to local media reports. Dylann Roof, the accused church shooter, waived his right to a speedy trial this week, according to court documents obtained by the Charleston Post and Courier newspaper.
The 21-year-old, who has pleaded not guilty to murder and hate crime charges, was not expected to appear in court for a scheduling hearing Thursday. But Roof’s lawyers have indicated the possibility of a prolonged court fight if federal prosecutors seek his execution.
Roof is facing 33 federal charges, including hate crime offenses and religious freedom violations that make him eligible for the death penalty, according to the Post and Courier. Roof opened fire at a June 17 Bible study meeting at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, acting on the beliefs of white supremacy, the FBI said.
Roof also faces murder, attempted murder and weapons charges in state court. Three people survived the shooting, according to authorities. Scarlett Wilson, solicitor of South Carolina's Ninth Judicial Circuit, said last month she will seek the death penalty against Roof. He pleaded not guilty during an arraignment in July.
Following the Charleston church shooting, a manifesto reportedly written by Roof was discovered online and detailed his racist beliefs and ideologies. The man also posted photos of himself online waving the Confederate battle flag and posing at Confederate monuments.
The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was enacted in 2009 as an expansion of existing federal laws that criminalized assault and murder motivated by bias against the victim’s race, color, religion or national origin. The law now covers crimes committed because of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.