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With federal case nearing end, judge indefinitely delays Dylann Roof's state trial

Roof’s death penalty trial postponed until 2017 Psychiatric testing incomplete; judge asks if request is ‘delaying tactic’ (copy)

Circuit Judge J.C. Nicholson questions attorneys during a hearing last year that prompted a delay in Dylann Roof's state trial until 2017. File/Staff

With Dylann Roof's federal death penalty trial nearing an end, a judge on Thursday indefinitely delayed a state proceeding that was scheduled for later this month.

State authorities were the first to charge Roof, 22, in the June 17, 2015, racially motivated attack that killed nine black worshipers at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. But with that murder case moving toward trial last year, federal prosecutors decided to also pursue the death penalty, and a judge set an earlier date for the hate crimes trial in U.S. District Court.

It was the first time both state and federal prosecutors simultaneously pursued a defendant's execution.

Roof is now representing himself in the penalty phase of his federal trial. His state case was to be heard Jan. 17, but Circuit Judge J.C. Nicholson signed paperwork delaying it "until further order of this court."

Nicholson noted in the filing the ongoing federal trial.

Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson is leading the state's prosecution of Roof on nine counts of murder, three of attempted murder and a firearms charge.

She lamented the federal trial's earlier date when it was set last year. At one point, she pointed out the federal government's track record for actually carrying out executions and said the federal proceeding would have "little or no relevance to the defendant’s ultimate fate."

But it remains unclear how she will proceed with the prosecution after a jury decides Roof's sentence on his 33 federal convictions.

"We have been closely monitoring and in constant consultation with the federal prosecutors who have done an outstanding job," she said Thursday. "Our plans have not changed, but we will continue to re-evaluate as the circumstances dictate."

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

Andrew Knapp is editor of the Quick Response Team, which covers crime, courts and breaking news. He previously worked as a reporter and copy editor at Florida Today, Newsday and Bangor (Maine) Daily News. He enjoys golf, weather and fatherhood.

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