- Associated Press - Thursday, July 7, 2016

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) - The Latest on court cases stemming from the June 2015 fatal shootings of nine black parishioners in a South Carolina church (all times local):


5 p.m.

Attorneys for the white man charged in the shooting deaths of nine black people at a South Carolina church say they shouldn’t be forced to reveal the mitigating factors they plan to present during the sentencing phase of his upcoming federal trial.

Lawyers representing Dylann Roof on charges including hate crimes and obstruction of religion made their argument in court papers Thursday.

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 defense to reveal such factors by Oct. 1, a month before Roof’s federal trial starts. Roof is accused of killing the parishioners at the Emanuel AME Church in June 2015.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson has said 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.


4 p.m.

Acting U.S. Attorney Beth Drake has written an open letter to the relatives of nine black parishioners fatally shot in a Charleston church last year and to three survivors of the shooting.

In a letter posted online Wednesday, Drake told the families that both the federal government and state prosecutors are seeking justice as they prepare to try accused shooter Dylann Roof.

The comment is Drake’s first since taking over the office for Bill Nettles, who resigned last month as South Carolina’s top federal prosecutor.

Roof’s federal death penalty trial is set for Nov. 7. State prosecutors’ capital case is scheduled for January, although state Solicitor Scarlett Wilson has said her case should go first.

In her letter, Drake calls Wilson a “terrific, capable, smart and excellent trial lawyer” who also at one point worked as a federal prosecutor. While it may seem at times state and federal officials disagree, Drake wrote, “at the end of the day, we are all after the same thing - justice.”


1 p.m.

The white man charged with fatally shooting nine black people at a South Carolina church is expected in court next week.

Solicitor Scarlett Wilson says a hearing in the state case against 22-year-old Dylann Roof has been scheduled for July 13 in Charleston.

Roof faces charges including nine counts of murder in state court, and Wilson is seeking the death penalty. Federal prosecutors are also seeking death on the 33 charges they’re pursuing against Roof, including hate crimes and obstruction of religion.

Roof’s federal trial is slated to begin in November, although Wilson has said her case should go first. The state trial is currently scheduled for January.


11:45 a.m.

The federal government has until July 26 to respond to lawsuits filed by families of some of the nine people killed in a South Carolina church.

Court papers including the deadline and proof the federal government had been served with the lawsuits were filed Wednesday in court.

The families sued the FBI last week, accusing the federal government of errors that enabled Dylann Roof to buy the .45-caliber handgun used in the June 2015 shootings at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.

FBI Director James Comey has said Roof shouldn’t have been able to buy the gun and promised a full review.

Lexington County Sheriff Jay Koon told The Associated Press last summer that a clerk entered incorrect information for Roof’s prior drug arrest, which prevented an FBI examiner from finding the arrest details when Roof tried to buy a gun.


9:55 a.m.

An attorney defending the man accused of fatally shooting nine black churchgoers says a South Carolina prosecutor’s desire to go to trial before federal authorities is “reckless and shortsighted.”

Public defender Ashley Pennington says that if Solicitor Scarlett Wilson wants justice, she should accept Dylann Roof’s offer to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence.

The arguments mirror statements in the 22-year-old’s federal hate crimes case, where his defenders have tried to persuade prosecutors to drop the death penalty and accept a guilty plea.

Roof faces capital punishment in both state and federal courts in the June 2015 shooting deaths of the parishioners at Emanuel AME Church.

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