The Latest: Judge's memo stresses need for private hearing

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Posted: Nov 07, 2016 5:58 PM
The Latest: Judge's memo stresses need for private hearing

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — The latest on the trial of a man accused in the shooting deaths of nine black churchgoers (all times local):

6 p.m.

A judge has detailed part of his rationale behind closing a hearing Monday in the federal death penalty trial of a white man charged with fatally shooting nine black church members in Charleston.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel said in the six-page memo filed in court that coverage of Dylann Roof's trial has been so widespread and that the matters discussed in the closed hearing could harm his right to a fair trial if any jurors overheard the information. Some sections of the memo were blacked out.

Gergel closed the 90-minute hearing over the objection of media organizations, which requested that a redacted transcript of it be made available. Gergel hasn't if or when that will be available.

Jury selection is set to resume Wednesday in Roof's trial on 33 federal counts. It was called off Monday when Roof's defense team requested the private hearing.

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5 p.m.

Jury selection is scheduled to resume Wednesday in the federal death penalty trial of a white man accused of fatally shooting nine black church members in Charleston.

The federal court system announced late Monday afternoon that U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel had determined that jury selection would reconvene Wednesday as originally planned. There is no court on Tuesday because of Election Day.

It wasn't initially clear when court would be back in session after Gergel met Monday morning in a closed hearing with Dylann Roof and his defense team. Over the objection of media organizations, Gergel said the hearing needed to be private to protect the attorney-client privilege and excluded prosecutors as well.

Jury selection had been expected to resume Monday but was halted when Roof's attorneys requested the hearing. Gergel said he may release a redacted transcript in the future.

Roof was present during the brief courtroom activities Monday, clad in a striped jumpsuit and without handcuffs.

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4:15 p.m.

Authorities say they're investigating nine suspicious letters referencing racial violence in Charleston, South Carolina, amid two widely-publicized trials featuring white defendants and black victims.

The City of Charleston said Monday that its officers, along with the FBI, were investigating the letters, all of which were sent last month from outside the U.S.

The letters were received by hotels, a popular park and Emanuel AME Church, where nine black parishioners were killed last summer.

Jury selection in the federal death-penalty trial of Dylann Roof had been set to resume in that case this week. After a closed hearing with only Roof and his attorneys, a judge said earlier Monday he wasn't sure when it would reconvene.

Across the street in state court former North Charleston officer Michael Slager is on trial, charged with murder for the shooting death of Walter Scott last April. Law enforcement presence in Charleston's downtown historic district is very heavy due to both cases being in court simultaneously.

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3:45 p.m.

A judge is still mulling when jury selection for the federal death-penalty trial of a white man accused of fatally shooting nine black church members will reconvene.

A spokesman for U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel said the judge wouldn't say Monday if jury selection would resume Wednesday as planned. More updates on scheduling were expected Tuesday, when there is no court because of Election Day.

Attorneys for Dylann Roof left the courtroom after the roughly 90-minute hearing Monday without speaking to reporters outside.

Jury selection had been expected to resume Monday in Roof's case, but defense attorneys requested a hearing. Gergel closed it, saying issues of attorney-client privilege were at stake.

News media outlets argued it was in the public's interest to keep the 11 a.m. hearing open. Gergel said he may release a redacted transcript in the future.

Roof was present during the brief courtroom activities Monday, clad in a striped jumpsuit and without handcuffs.

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1 p.m.

A closed hearing has ended in the federal death penalty trial of a white man accused of fatally shooting nine black members of a Charleston, South Carolina, church.

Attorneys for Dylann Roof left the courtroom after the roughly 90-minute hearing Monday without speaking to reporters outside.

Jury selection had been expected to resume in Roof's case, but defense attorneys requested a hearing. U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel closed the hearing, saying issues of attorney-client privilege were at stake.

News media outlets argued it was in the public's interest to keep the 11 a.m. hearing open. Gergel said he may release a redacted transcript in the future.

Roof was present during the brief courtroom activities Monday, clad in a striped jumpsuit and without handcuffs.

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10:45 a.m.

A hearing in the federal case of a white man on trial for the fatal shooting of nine black members of a Charleston, South Carolina, church will remain closed.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel on Monday heard objections from attorneys for news media outlets who argued it was in the public's interest to keep the 11 a.m. hearing open. Gergel said he may release a redacted transcript in the future.

Just as jury selection was supposed to start in Dylann Roof's trial, Gergel said he had received a request from defense lawyers that demanded his immediate attention. Gergel said the hearing had to do with attorney-client privilege to protect Roof's rights to a fair and impartial trial.

Government attorneys are also prohibited from the hearing and didn't object to closing it.

Jury selection is set to resume Wednesday. Roof was present during the brief courtroom activities Monday, clad in a striped jumpsuit and without handcuffs.

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9:50 a.m.

Jury selection stopped before it started in the federal case of a white man on trial for the fatal shooting of nine black members of a Charleston, South Carolina, church.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel opened what was supposed to be the start of jury selection in Dylann Roof's trial Monday by saying he had received a request from defense lawyers that demanded his immediate attention.

Gergel set the hearing for 11 a.m. Monday behind closed doors and said prosecutors would not be allowed in the hearing. The judge said anyone who objected to the closed door hearing had until 10 a.m. to make that argument.

Gergel said the hearing had to do with attorney-client privilege to protect Roof's rights to a fair and impartial trial.

Jury selection will resume Wednesday.

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4:20 a.m.

Jury selection is resuming in the federal case a white man on trial for fatally shooting nine black parishioners during a Bible study at a Charleston church last year.

Twenty-two-year-old Dylann Roof is charged with hate crimes, obstruction of religion and other counts in the shootings at Emanuel AME Church. It's the first of two death penalty trials Roof faces stemming from the shootings.

Beginning Monday, 516 potential jurors will report back to the courthouse to be individually questioned by the judge. When 70 qualified jurors are picked, attorneys will be able to use strikes to dismiss those they don't want.

Twelve jurors and six alternates will eventually be seated. The process could take several weeks. Court officials say opening statements may not begin until after Thanksgiving.