Accused Charleston church shooter will represent himself at federal hate-crimes trial

Officers with the Department of Homeland Security patrol outside the federal courthouse in Charleston S.C. on Nov. 7

Roof also faces 33 counts of hate crimes, obstruction of religion and firearms charges stemming from the shooting, which occurred during a Bible study session at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in June 2015. Judge Gergel accepted Roof's choice, calling it "unwise". Although Roof offered to plead guilty in an effort to serve life in prison, federal authorities are still seeking the death penalty.

Seven potential jurors have been qualified in the federal death penalty trial of the white man accused of fatally shooting nine black parishioners at a SC church.

The federal hate crimes charges were brought after the Justice Department concluded the murders were racially motivated. The ruling sets the stage for the self-avowed white supremacist to question the shooting survivors and family members of the nine victims if they are called to testify.

According to USA Today, attorney David Bruck, former lead counsel for the gunman, ceded his seat at the defense table to Roof Monday after the young man requested that his new "standby" council be seated one chair over at the tables, putting him in the top spot.

According to CNN, jury selection had been under way when US District Judge Richard Mark Gergel stopped the process to allow Roof to undergo a competency evaluation.

This was the only black person among the two panels of potential jurors gathered on Monday. The case got under way earlier this month, but had to be postponed while the court determined whether Roof was mentally competent to stand trial. This will make things hard, no doubt, for the survivors of the attack and the victim's families, who will have to maintain their own calmness if and when he cross-examines them either at trial or during the sentencing phase of this case. But it's clear that doing so will hurt his chances at avoiding the death penalty - which appears to be the chief reason the trial is going forward.

Church shooting suspect allowed to act as his own attorney
Accused Charleston church shooter will represent himself at federal hate-crimes trial

The court needs 70 qualified jurors before attorneys can begin whittling that number down to 12 jurors and six alternates.

As jury qualification began Monday, Roof, of the Columbia area, wore a gray-striped jail jumpsuit and white tennis shoes.

Gergel ruled on Friday that Roof was competent to stand trial. Mr Gergel struck the woman from serving as a juror. Additionally, authorities say that they have found two handwritten manifestos from Roof; one of which was found in his jail cell, while another was in his auto, as well as a list of churches.

Shortly after the shooting, police discovered Roof had posted pictures of himself with Confederate and Nazi symbols and uploaded a manifesto that criticized black people as inferior.

Jury selection is also underway.

After several questions, the judge granted Roof's motion to dismiss the juror. That trial is scheduled to begin in mid-January.

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