Charleston church shooting suspect’s trial begins

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) – The Latest on the death penalty trial of Dylann Roof charged with killing nine people during a Bible study in a Charleston church (all times local):

2:30 p.m.

Charleston church shooting survivor Felicia Sanders choked back tears and called Dylann Roof “evil, evil, evil” as she described how the young white man shot nine black parishioners during a Bible study last year.

Sanders talked about how Roof came to Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and was welcomed to the Bible study. She said when the shooting started she first thought there was an electrical problem with an elevator.

Her son Tywanza was one of those who died. She said she watched her son come into this world and watched him leave. Emotions overcame her and the judge called a recess in Roof’s federal death penalty trial. Several jurors were dabbing their eyes leaving the courtroom.

Roof sat with his head looking down at the defense table during the testimony.

12:40 p.m.

A lawyer for the white man accused of killing nine black people at a Charleston church is not disputing that his client committed the heinous crimes.

But Attorney David Bruck told jurors Wednesday that they should pay attention to the little things and use their common sense to try and figure out what made 22-year-old Dylann Roof hate black people so much.

Bruck says he may not call any witnesses during the guilt or innocence phase of the death penalty trial because there is little question Roof committed the slayings.

The second part of the trial is the penalty phase. Bruck tried to hint at reasons why Roof shouldn’t be put to death, but prosecutors loudly objected, saying that was for the penalty phase. The judge agreed.

Roof says he wants to represent himself during the penalty phase.

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12 p.m.

A federal prosecutor says Dylann Roof was a man with a “cold and hateful heart” when he pulled out a Glock pistol and shot and killed nine black parishioners at a Charleston, South Carolina, church last year.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson told jurors during his opening statement in Roof’s death penalty trial on Wednesday that the young white man must have appeared harmless to those attending a Bible study at Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in June 2015. Richardson said Roof showed exactly what was in his heart when he pointed the gun and pulled the trigger, hitting the church members more than 60 times.

Richardson told jurors they will hear Roof’s confession and hear how he hoped to start a race war by targeting the AME parishioners. He urged the jurors to convict Roof on 33 federal counts, including hate crimes.

Richardson vowed that Roof’s “racism, his violence, his assault on a house of worship won’t prevail in this courtroom.”

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11:10 a.m.

The 12 jurors who will hear the death penalty trial of Dylann Roof have been picked and will decide whether the white man killed nine black people in racially motivated attack at a Charleston church.

Jury selection took about 20 minutes Wednesday. According to a reporter who observed the process, it appears that the panel is racially mixed. Police say Roof shot nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in June 2015. Authorities say the 22-year-old man wanted to start a race war.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel only allowed one pool reporter to watch the jury selection, and she said she couldn’t immediately determine the racial makeup of the panel.

Court officials also didn’t release the races of the jurors.

Roof faces hate crime and obstruction of religion charges. If jurors find him guilty, they will decide if he should be put to death.

Opening statements are expected Wednesday morning.

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9:40 a.m.

The final phase of jury selection is underway in the death-penalty trial of Dylann Roof, the white man accused of gunning down nine black parishioners during a Bible study at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, last year.

Roof faces 33 charges in federal court, including hate crimes and obstruction of religion. Federal prosecutors say he spoke of starting a race war when he shot the parishioners at Emanuel AME Church. State prosecutors plan a second death penalty trial on nine murder charges next year.

The federal jury selection process began last summer when about 3,000 potential jurors received jury summonses. After filling out questionnaires and being questioned by attorneys, that pool has now been reduced to 67 people.

Attorneys are using juror strikes Wednesday to select the final panel of 12 jurors and six alternates who’ll hear the case.

Opening statements are scheduled for later in the day.

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3:50 a.m.

The death penalty trial for a white man who said he wanted to start a race war by killing black people in their South Carolina church is set to begin.

Jury selection and opening statements are scheduled for Wednesday in Dylann Roof’s federal death penalty trial in Charleston.

The city is already bruised by a former police officer’s racially charged murder trial that ended in a hung jury Monday.

But Roof’s trial shouldn’t be so hard fought. His lawyers have offered for Roof to plead guilty several times if prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty.

Authorities say Roof killed nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in June 2015 after spending an hour with them in Bible study.