CHARLESTON, S.C. – South Carolina has primary jurisdiction over the case of a man accused of fatally shooting nine black parishioners in Charleston last year and thus should be allowed to prosecute him before the federal government does, a state attorney argued Tuesday.
Roof, 22, is charged with nine counts of murder in the shooting deaths of parishioners during a Bible study at Emanuel AME Church in June 2015. Currently Roof's federal trial on hate crimes and other charges is set for November. The state case is not scheduled until January.
Scarlett Wilson, who will be prosecuting Roof for the state, is also slated to try former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager in the April 2015 shooting death of black motorist Walter Scott. That trial is set for Oct. 31 and will likely be underway at the time of Roof's federal trial. Slager is also charged in federal court, but the federal trial has not yet been scheduled.
Slager's attorney, Andy Savage, meanwhile, is also representing families of several of the church shooting victims.
In documents filed Tuesday, Wilson asked that the judges in the various cases consult on a trial schedule.
Both state and federal prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Roof, but Wilson noted the federal government has not executed a prisoner in 13 years.
If Roof is sentenced to death in federal court first, "the state can have no confidence that the United States will ever seek to carry out a death sentence," she wrote.
Meanwhile, federal prosecutors have asked what mitigating factors the defense plans to present during the sentencing phase of Roof's trial. Mitigating circumstances such as drug abuse or mental illness are generally not required to be revealed until after a defendant is found guilty. The government wants the judge to order the defense to reveal such factors by Oct. 1.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson noted that a judge ordered the defense to provide mitigating factors before the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was sentenced to death in the April 15, 2013 Boston Marathon bombings that killed three and injured more than 260.