Friend of church shooting suspect wants trial near hometown

AP News
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Posted: Nov 16, 2015 4:50 PM

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — A defendant accused of not telling authorities everything he knew about the plans of a man charged with shooting nine parishioners at a Charleston church wants his federal trial held in Columbia, not in Charleston.

The attorney for 21-year-old Joey Meek wrote U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel on Monday saying Meek opposes moving the trial to Charleston, about two hours from Columbia. Gergel has indicated it would be easier for families of the shooting victims to attend a trial in Charleston.

"My client is deeply concerned that his family members and supporters would not be able to afford to attend a trial in Charleston," said the letter from Meek's court-appointed attorney, Deborah Barbier.

"Mr. Meek is also concerned that having the trial in Charleston, South Carolina - the location of the crimes allegedly committed by Dylan Roof - may improperly influence the jury with passion and prejudice against Mr. Meek," she added.

Barbier said she and her assistant also would not have access to a law office and copiers that would be needed during the trial if the case were heard in Charleston.

Prosecutors allege Meek failed to report what he knew about Roof's plans to shoot black parishioners at Emanuel AME Church. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison for lying and up to three for concealing information.

Roof faces nine counts of murder in state court and dozens of federal charges, including hate crimes. His state murder trial, in which prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, is scheduled for next July.

No dates for the federal trials of either Meek or Roof have been set, although Gergel last week agreed to delay the start of Meek's trial until at least March.