U.S. judge orders jury trial for accused Charleston church shooter
By Harriet McLeod
CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) – The white man accused of killing nine black parishioners in a racially motivated attack at a South Carolina church last June will face a trial by jury rather than a judge as he requested, a U.S. judge ordered on Monday.
The federal trial for accused Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof, 22, is scheduled to begin on Nov. 7.
In a court filing last week, Roof asked to be granted a bench trial. The filing did not say why he wanted to waive his right to a trial by jury.
Federal prosecutors, who intend to seek the death penalty over the June 17, 2015, killings, objected to the request in a court filing on Monday, records show.
Federal rules require that a criminal trial be conducted before a jury if the government does not agree to a bench trial, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel said in his order.
As a result, jurors will decide Roof’s guilt and punishment, Gergel said.
Roof faces 33 federal charges, including hate crimes, obstruction of religion, and firearms charges in the gun slayings of nine black members of a Bible study at Charleston’s historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
A state capital punishment trial is also scheduled for January. State prosecutors charged Roof with murder and attempted murder.
The slayings shook the country and intensified debate over U.S. race relations, already roiled at the time by numerous high-profile police killings of unarmed black people.
(Editing by Karen Brooks and Leslie Adler)