Charleston church shooter transferred to federal custody
by Meg Kinnard | April 4, 2017 8:44 am
Authorities have agreed to transfer South Carolina church shooter Dylann Roof to federal custody following an agreement that he plead guilty to state murder charges, thus avoiding a second death sentence.
Court documents filed Sunday show that Roof, his attorneys and state and federal prosecutors have agreed that Roof should be officially transferred to federal authorities. All parties signed a document to that effect late last month, and federal prosecutors have asked U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel to order the U.S. Marshals to deliver Roof to state custody until his case there is officially wrapped up.
Roof, 22, has been awaiting trial on state murder charges for the deaths of nine black parishioners at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church in June 2015. Authorities said Roof spent months planning his attack on the historic black church, driving by the church and calling to check on service times. Roof sat through an hour of Bible study one Wednesday night before opening fire during a prayer, when participants’ eyes were closed, authorities said.
Roof faced different charges from both state and federal authorities. Solicitor Scarlett Wilson brought charges including nine counts of murder, while the federal government charged Roof with offenses including hate crimes and obstruction of the practice of religion.
Prosecutors in both courts pursued death sentences. The federal case came first, and jurors unanimously sentenced Roof to death earlier this year. Roof’s federal defense team had signaled a willingness to plead guilty ahead of that trial, if the death penalty were off the table, but federal prosecutors refused to drop their pursuit.
Roof, who has been housed at the Charleston County jail since his arrest, was kept there pending his state trial, which had been expected later this year. But last week, Wilson told The Associated Press that Roof had agreed to plead guilty to state charges in exchange for a life sentence. Relatives of some of the shooting victims heralded the decision, saying through their attorneys that the deal would spare them a grueling second trial.
According to Wilson, the plea deal also allowed Roof to be officially transferred into federal custody, which puts him a step closer to beginning to serve his sentence. Federal death row is located in Terre Haute, Indiana.