Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said Friday afternoon that it’s too early for discussions about the death penalty, despite calls from Gov. Nikki Haley for the accused gunman to face execution in the fatal shootings at Emanuel AME Church.
“My first obligation is to these victims’ families. They deserve to know the facts first; they deserve to be involved in any conversation involving the death penalty,” Wilson said. “Now is not the time to have those conversations with them. They need the time and the space to mourn and to grieve and we’re going to give them that.”
Dylann Storm Roof, 21, of Eastover is accused of going to the Calhoun Street church on Wednesday night and opening fire, killing nine people who were attending a Bible study.
“We will seek the death penalty,” Haley said outside the church Friday morning. “You will absolutely pay the price.
“This is pure hate.”
The FBI has said that it was investigating the shooting as a hate crime. Roof is white. The victims were black.
“There’s a very evil kid out there that we need to blame,” Haley said. “I talked to my investigators (Thursday) and they looked pure evil in the eye.”
Roof was flown to Charleston on Thursday night after he was captured earlier in the day in Shelby, N.C.
He remained in Charleston County’s jail Friday morning.
Charleston Mayor Joe Riley said in a separate news conference Friday that he isn’t a proponent of the death penalty.
“That’s law in South Carolina, so it no doubt will be,” he said. “I think if you’re going to have a death penalty, then certainly this case merits.”
Wilson did not say much regarding the prosecution of the case, instead vowing to work quietly “behind the scenes” to deliver justice.
“As chief prosecutor, I’m not here to pontificate (or) convict, there are many who will and already have done that for you, I’m sure,” she said. “As for me and my staff, we will serve. We will serve justice.”
She said that her office is working closely with the Department of Justice and that information would not be as free-flowing as it was in previous days.
“As we move through this prosecution, the rules are different than when we have an investigation and we have an emergency situation,” she explained. “The rules limit what I can say, what I should say, and I intend to abide by those rules.”
Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen echoed her sentiments and said the department would only be as transparent and open as the ongoing investigation allows.
“We’re not going to be able to give out information as quickly and as freely as we were yesterday (Thursday),” he said. “Our role now and our primary focus now is a successful prosecution, and we’re not going to jeopardize that by releasing information prematurely.”
In her comments outside the church, Haley said it was her job to pull the people of the Palmetto State back together.
“The grief is overwhelming,” she said. “But you know we are a strong state and we’ll get through this.”