On Wednesday, 21-year-old Dylann Roof allegedly opened fire on a Bible study group at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, leaving 9 people dead. The next day he apprehended in Shelby, North Carolina, and charged with nine counts of murder on Friday. According to CNN, investigators claim he's confessed to the grisly crime, characterizing it as a "mission" to ignite a race war. It's as grim and horrifying a story as they come, and it means Roof will ultimately have to stand trial to account for his alleged offenses — but when will the Dylann Roof trial actually begin?
The Charleston shooting has been the focus of a ton of attention over the last few days, and has sparked critical analysis of the reactions of a number of major politicians. South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham, for example, speculated that the shooting might have been motivated by anti-Christian bigotry, despite all evidence thusfar (based on statements Roof is accused of having made by witnesses and investigators) suggesting that the motivation was anti-black racism.
Graham, for his part, revised his answer on Friday, stating that the Charleston parishioners' skin color made them targets. But with other candidates doing a similarly awkward dance (like ostensible presidential contender Jeb Bush, for example), it's clear that Roof's alleged crimes will have a lasting impact on our society and politics alike, and as such, his trial will likely make headlines.
So, how much longer until Roof actually stands trial for the nine people he's accused of killing? These sorts of questions can be hard to answer, as legal and procedural delays can stretch these kinds of cases out over the course of months, even years.
The judge in the Roof case has given an indication when we can next expect to see him in a courtroom, however, and that might be instructive. According to the Washington Post, Judge James B. Gosnell announced during Roof's bail hearing on Friday that he'd be back in court in October, and then again in February of 2016.
Whether February could be the start of the trial is unclear, but Gosnell's comment at least demonstrates this much — we're going to be waiting a while, as tends to be the way in high-profile cases such as this. Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, for example, took just over two years to try and sentence. The trial of accused Colorado theater shooter James Holmes, in which prosecutors concluded their arguments on Friday, will likely take just over three years to come to a conclusion.
If Roof's defense attorneys were to operate along the same lines that Tsarnaev's did, for example, things like a venue change request could further delay the proceedings, arguing that he'd be unlikely to get a fair trial so close to the site of his alleged crimes. And obviously, in the event of a death penalty conviction, the process goes even longer — the appeals process for capital convictions can take several years, owing to an absolute need for certainty.
So, basically: you can expect to see Roof return to a South Carolina courtroom in October and in February, and if recent history is any indicator, we could still be a long ways off from a full-fledged trial, let alone finding out what Roof's fate will ultimately be.
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