A trial was delayed again Tuesday for a man accused of shooting and killing nine people at a Charleston church, and a prosecutor said it could be months before the federal government decides whether it will seek the death penalty.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel agreed, for a third time, to postpone the trial after Dylann Roof's attorney David Bruck said the defense is still reviewing evidence that the government has provided in its case again Roof.

Roof faces dozens of federal charges, including hate crimes, in the slayings of parishioners at Emanuel AME Church during a Bible study last June.

Bruck said that last week the defense received "many thousands of pages" of evidence it needs to sort though. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson said the government is also working to provide the defense with copies of material from the hard drives of computers seized during the investigation.

Gergel did not set a trial date on Tuesday. Roof did not attend the hearing.

Richardson said a Justice Department committee that makes recommendations to the attorney general on seeking the death penalty should begin reviewing the Roof case by year's end. A decision usually then takes another three months, he said.

Bruck said the defense is waiting on the government and told the judge "the case could end very quickly" depending on whether prosecutors seek the death penalty.

Roof's attorneys have said he would like to plead guilty but need to know first if the federal government will seek the death penalty against him.

The state of South Carolina is set to try Roof on murder charges in a case set to begin next July. The state is seeking the death penalty.