Trial in Walter Scott shooting could come before Dylann Roof’s

Former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager talks with his attorney, Andy Savage, during a court appearance earlier this year.

Local solicitors might agree to try the former North Charleston policeman who shot Walter Scott before they prosecute Dylann Roof, the man accused in the mass shooting at Emanuel AME Church, according to court documents filed Tuesday.

Roof had been expected to be put on trial first in July, but his attorneys’ request to delay the proceeding could prompt the switch. Michael Slager, who is charged with murder in Scott’s death, is set to be tried in late October.

The development came in 9th Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson’s response to a bid by Roof’s lawyers for more time to prepare their defense against the death penalty.

Roof, 22, would face a penalty phase of his trial if he’s convicted of murder in the deaths of nine church parishioners in June. That process typically involves an extensive search by the defense team for evidence supporting Roof’s plea for a life sentence instead of execution.

“While the state expects to be prepared for trial on July 11 and the victims and victims’ families are anxious to resolve this case,” Wilson said in the filing Tuesday, “everyone understands the need for adequate preparation and a fair trial.”

Circuit Judge J.C. Nicholson will consider arguments about the possible delay for Roof during a 10 a.m. hearing Wednesday. If Nicholson grants the defense motion for a continuance, Wilson suggested that he consult with Circuit Judge Clifton Newman, who is presiding over Slager’s case, before setting a new trial date for Roof.

Slager was arrested in April 2015, months before the church shooting.

But Wilson is leading the prosecution of both cases, and a state Supreme Court order last year stated that she wasn’t expected to appear in any cases but Roof’s until after Roof is tried. She could choose to waive that protection and agree to try Slager first, she said Tuesday.

Slager’s attorney, Andy Savage, said he is prepared whenever the case is called.

“We have been given an (Oct. 31) trial date, and we will be ready,” he said. “We remain focused on being prepared for the date we have been given.”

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