The man accused of killing nine people at a historic black South Carolina church would plead guilty to murder if he’s spared a death sentence, his attorney said Wednesday.
The state has said it will seek the death penalty in the case. Dylann Roof, 21, is also facing federal charges including hate crimes and obstruction of the practice of religion. However, Roof's attorneys say he is willing to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence.
"We are putting the court on notice that our client is willing to plead guilty to all charges for life without parole," William McGuire said.
During a July hearing in federal court, another attorney for Roof said his client wanted to also plead guilty to 33 federal charges, but that he couldn't advise his client to do so until federal prosecutors say whether they are seeking the death penalty.
McGuire’s statement came during a hearing in Charleston where a judge is deciding if he will allow the release of some police documents and other evidence in connection with the shooting.
Judge J.C. Nicholson said he wanted to sit down with attorneys for the victims and the news media to review some of the more graphic evidence — including photographs of the crime scene — before deciding specifically what will be released. The judge also indicated the 911 calls could be released, but that there had been no decision whether it would be the tapes or simply transcripts of what was said.
Nicholson said he was concerned about the graphic crime-scene photographs stemming from the shooting at Emanuel AMEW church in Charleston.
"I see no benefit or reason for the news media to have access to those photographs showing people dead on the church floor," Nicholson said Wednesday during the hearing.
Various news organizations, including The Associated Press, earlier had challenged Nicholson's order preventing attorneys from discussing the case and preventing the release of emergency calls, witness statements, coroner reports and other documents stemming from the June 17 shootings at Emanuel AME Church.
Attorneys for the victims' families say the material should not be released because doing so would violate the victims' rights to privacy.
The judge expressed concern earlier that the right to a fair trial for Roof could be compromised by the release of some of that material.
Jay Bender, an attorney representing The Associated Press and other media organizations during the hearing, said he expects it will be a couple weeks before Nicholson issues a decision.
Bender said he expects transcripts of the calls, not the actual 911 audio tapes, to be released.