CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — The white man accused of gunning down nine parishioners at a black church in Charleston wants to plead guilty to 33 federal charges, but his lawyer said in court Friday that he wouldn’t do so until prosecutors say whether they’ll seek the death penalty.
During a brief arraignment in federal court, defense attorney David Bruck said that he couldn’t advise his client, Dylann Roof, to enter a guilty plea without knowing the government’s intentions.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Bristow Marchant then entered a not guilty plea for Roof, 21, who faces federal charges including hate crimes, weapons charges and obstructing the practice of religion. Appearing in court in a gray striped prison jumpsuit, his hands in shackles, Roof answered yes several times in response to the judge’s questions but otherwise didn’t speak.
Marchant also heard briefly from family members of victims of the June 17 attack at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston. Several church representatives also spoke.
Roof also faces numerous state charges, including nine counts of murder. Prosecutors in that case also have not said whether they’ll seek the death penalty.
No future hearings are scheduled in Roof’s case, although the judge did tell attorneys they have several weeks to file pre-trial motions.