Criminal Justice

Prosecutor blasts federal court for scheduling hate crimes trial of Dylann Roof before state trial

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Dylann Roof

Dylann Roof. Photo from the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office.

State prosecutor Scarlett Wilson criticized the federal court system during a hearing Monday, saying it is circumventing South Carolina’s trial of Dylann Roof, the 22-year-old white man accused of fatally shooting nine people at a historic black church in Charleston in 2015.

Roof’s federal trial is set for Nov. 7—about two months ahead of the state trial, set for Jan. 17. According to the Post and Courier and the Associated Press, Wilson said the survivors and family members of the victims would be forced to spend the holiday season in courtrooms.

“If we want the state sentence to matter, then we have to go first,” Wilson said during the hearing Monday at the Charleston County Judicial Center, later adding that the federal courts are “skipping over the fact that the state has primary jurisdiction.”

Wilson, based in Charleston, further stated that Roof’s representatives believe the federal court would be best suited for a favorable outcome to his death penalty case. The federal court system has generally executed fewer people than the state criminal justice system, the Post and Courier reports.

The state trial was initially set for July until Roof’s lawyers asked for more time to examine Roof’s mental health. Meanwhile, federal prosecutors announced they would seek the death penalty for Roof, prompting Roof’s lawyers to ask for a speedy trial in federal court.

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