The federal trial for Dylann Roof (R), the 22-year-old charged with murdering nine worshipers at a historic black church in Charleston in June 2017, began after the selection of 12 jurists Wednesday. Above, Roof was photographed as he listened to the proceedings with assistant defense attorney William Maguire during a hearing at the Judicial Center in the South Carolina city on July 16, 2015. Reuters

Upon the selection Tuesday of a jury consisting of two black women, eight white women, one white man and one black man, the federal trial has begun for Charleston shooter Dylann Roof.

Nearly 18 months have passed since Roof, a white man aged 21 at the time, opened fire on a dozen parishioners at the Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, killing nine African Americans, including the congregation’s senior pastor and a state senator, and injuring three.

The Defendant

Dylann Storm Roof, 22, is a Columbia, South Carolina, native who had dropped out of high school while repeating the ninth grade. He had been boasting of his desire to start a race war since he began reading white supremacist websites while in high school, the New York Times reported. Citing online evidence, prosecutors said he “self-radicalized” through “personal associations with white supremacist groups or individuals or others,” according to the Associated Press. An examination of Roof’s Facebook account and online activity by the Times found that he burned the American flag while lionizing the Confederate banner, wrote manifestos describing black people as inferior to whites and overtly alluded to Nazism.

“I have no choice,” his website said. “We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the internet. Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me.”

Since the shooting, Roof has been in custody at the Charleston County Detention Center, where in early August a fellow inmate assaulted him, punching him in the face and back, the AP reported.

The Events Of June 17, 2015

At 8 p.m., Roof reportedly brought his .45 caliber Glock to an evening bible study at the Charleston’s Mother Emanuel AME Church. Roof sat with the group for about an hour before standing up and firing 77 times, killing eight people at the scene. Three were then hospitalized, one of whom died. Roof remained at large for at least 14 hours until police acted on a tip and confirmed Roof’s arrest.

The victims included State Sen. and Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, retired pastor Daniel Simmons, Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Ethel Lee Lance, Cynthia Graham Hurd, Susie Jackson, Myra Thompson and Tywanza Sanders. The survivors include churchgoers Polly Sheppard, Felicia Sanders and a 12-year-old girl.

A sign depicting the names of victims of a mass shooting was photographed at a makeshift memorial outside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston on June 22, 2015. Reuters

The Charges

According to a South Carolina federal district court document, Roof faces 33 charges from federal prosecutors: nine counts of a hate crime resulting in death, three counts of a hate crime with intent to kill, nine counts of obstruction of exercise of religion resulting in death, three counts of religious exercise obstruction in an attempt to kill and nine counts of using a firearm to commit murder.

As the state of South Carolina does not have a statute allowing prosecution for hate crimes, Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced in July 2015 the Department of Justice’s intentions to investigate the shooting as a hate crime, a conviction she said could leave Roof with life imprisonment or capital punishment. In May, Lynch said the Justice Department would pursue the latter.

The Trial

Accounts of Roof’s past behavior have frightened many, but his actions in the months leading up to the trial have also attracted attention. In June, he told the federal court, through his lawyers, that he did not want a jury to decide his fate, opting instead of a lone judge, a move widely considered a risky gamble, as prosecutors will seek the death penalty.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel denied Roof’s request and later ordered a competency evaluation for the gunman, finding him capable of standing trial. Several weeks later, Gergel granted Roof’s request to represent himself in the trial, then, on Monday, allowed him to have his lawyers back for the guilt phase of the trial. Roof still intended to represent himself for the sentencing portion.

The Other Trial

Wednesday marked the start of just one of two prosecutions against Roof. On Jan. 17, the alleged gunman is set to appear before a South Carolina circuit court judge, when he’ll face 13 charges—nine counts of murder, three of attempted murder and one of possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime—from state prosecutors who, like Lynch, are pursuing the death penalty. In September, one of Roof’s attorneys said he would plead guilty if the state will save him from capital punishment, according to Reuters.

The Conversation

Roof’s case has broader implications for the country as it comes one month after the election of a president endorsed by white supremacists and the Ku Klux Klan. But, on a more local level, the trial comes two days after a federal case in Charleston, against white police officer Michael Slager, who had been videotaped killing an unarmed black man and ended in a mistrial.

On Tuesday, Roof’s lawyers requested a delay for the trial, citing the Slager verdict as a potential reason for the jury to lean in favor of the victims as a way to more or less compensate for what many saw Monday as a miscarriage of justice. Gergel rejected the attorneys’ requests.

But to a greater extent Slager's fatal shooting of an unarmed black victim, Roof's case stirred a national conversation and led in part to the removal of a long-standing Confederate flag from the South Carolina statehouse and, for many, to the confrontation of race-based hatred still alive and well in the U.S.