Public has right to see Dylann Roof’s latest motion, federal prosecutors argue

Dylann Storm Roof, 21, is seen after he was booked on June 18 at the Charleston County jail.

The public has a right to see the latest motion by Dylann Roof’s defense team, federal prosecutors said late last week in court documents.

Defense attorneys for the man charged in the June shooting at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church had filed a motion for a protective order on Oct. 20, but they argued that the document and its supporting paperwork should be sealed because the filings contain “attorney work-product material.”

Their request for U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel to restrict the information from public view gave few details of the motion’s contents.

Responding on Friday to the move, U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson said in a filing that “the public has a First Amendment right, though not an unlimited one, of access to criminal pre-trial motions.”

Roof’s defense team had not illustrated a “compelling interest” to seal the motion, the prosecutors said. The defense argument that the motion contains attorney work product also does not apply, the prosecutors argued, because the “underlying document ... was prepared and maintained by a third party with no affiliation with the defense team for a purpose unrelated to” Roof’s case.

Gergel had not ruled on the issue by late Monday afternoon.

Roof is charged with 33 federal counts, including hate crimes and religious freedom violations, in connection with the June 17 slayings of nine parishioners at Emanuel AME Church on Calhoun Street. He could face the death penalty in federal court, but prosecutors there have not announced whether they would pursue the sentence.

The 21-year-old Eastover resident would face execution if convicted in state court, where local prosecutors are seeking to try him first. His trial is set for July.

Reach Andrew Knapp at (843) 937-5414 or

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