Judge seals latest Roof motion from public view

Dylann Roof appears June 19 for a bond hearing.

A federal judge opted Tuesday to bar the public from seeing Dylann Roof’s latest court motion.

The move by U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel grants the defense team’s request to seal its motion for a protective order.

No documentation explains what the protective order is about. A protective order in a criminal proceeding can prevent prosecutors from getting information from a defendant that is considered sensitive, but it has other purposes, such as excusing attorneys from appearing in court on certain dates.

Roof’s attorneys filed the paperwork Oct. 20 and asked Gergel to seal it.

They argued that it contained “attorney work product” and that making it public would amount to a prejudicial disclosure.

Prosecutors opposed the attorneys’ request, contending that the public had a right to know the contents of Roof’s pretrial motions.

Gergel wrote in his ruling Tuesday that Roof’s “right to have the court address the motion for protective order, without having it mooted, outweighs the public’s right of access.”

But that balance could shift in the future, prompting Gergel to approve public access, he wrote.

Roof, 21, faces 33 federal charges and 13 state counts in the June 17 shooting that killed nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.

The federal case is set for jury selection in January, but a state prosecutor has asked Gergel for a chance to try Roof first. The state trial is set for July.

Reach Andrew Knapp at 843-937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.

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