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Attorneys for Charleston Church Shooter Want Federal Charges Dropped, Claims Case Is ‘Unconstitutional’

Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof. Image courtesy of Chuck Burton/AP Photo

Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof. Image courtesy of Chuck Burton/AP Photo

Attorneys for accused church shooter Dylann Roof are now asking that all federal charges against their client be dropped, calling Roof’s government case unconstitutional.

According to Charleston, South Carolina news station WCSC, lawyers filed the motion Tuesday, arguing the federal government didn’t have the constitutional authority to prosecute Roof; instead, the state government should be left to handle the matter. They also claim the federal case against Roof violates his 13th Amendment rights (which outlawed slavery) and the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.

“The charges at issue are extremely grave, but under the Constitution they are not properly charged,” argued Sarah Gannett, one of Roof’s lawyers. “The defendant therefore requests that the indictment be dismissed.”

The 21-year-old was slapped with 33 hate crimes charges after killing nine Black parishioners at the Mother Emanuel A.M.E. church in June of last year. Per WCSC,  jury selection for his federal trial is set to begin Nov. 7 while his state trial is scheduled for January 17, 2017. Prosecutors at the state and federal levels are seeking the death penalty for Roof.

His lawyers’ request for a case dismissal comes just a month after the one-year anniversary of the tragic church shooting. Roof also opted for a bench trial early last month, Atlanta Black Star reports.

“Pursuant to this order, the defendant hereby states that he is willing to waive jury, and to be tried and sentenced by the court,” read the motion filed by attorneys David Bruck and Michael O’Connell.

It’s highly unlikely the government will grant their request, however.

“Counsel for the government has informed defense counsel that the government will not consent to waive jury at either stage of this case,” the filing read.

According to the Post and Courier, Roof’s attorneys have offered to drop their challenge if the federal government agrees to a life sentence behind bars for Roof, rather than the death penalty.

“The motion is being made only because the statutes at issue form the basis of the government’s request for the death penalty,” the motion states. “Should the government’s death notice be withdrawn at any point in the future, the defendant will withdraw this motion and plead guilty as charged to all counts in the indictment.”

Prosecutors must respond to the offer by July 25, the Post and Courier reports.

Next week, Circuit Judge J.C. Nicholson is expected to decide whether the state of South Carolina will try Roof before the federal trial against him begins.


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