Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Dylann Roof (remember him?) has his federal hate crimes trial scheduled first - why?

State prosecutor Scarlett Wilson criticized the federal court system during a hearing Monday, saying it is circumventing South Carolina’s trial of Dylann Roof, the 22-year-old white man accused of fatally shooting nine people at a historic black church in Charleston in 2015.

Roof’s federal trial is set for Nov. 7—about two months ahead of the state trial, set for Jan. 17. According to the Post and Courier and the Associated Press, Wilson said the survivors and family members of the victims would be forced to spend the holiday season in courtrooms.

Article here (via aba journal). 

It is a jurisdictional question - and also a punishment question. On jurisdiction: shouldn't the state have precedence to try him for murders first? And on punishment: federal courts typically don't sentence a death penalty sentence, so isn't the federal trial going first a little on the lenient side (possibly)? I say there's another issue: If he's found guilty first in federal court, the guilty verdict at the state level seems a foregone conclusion. State prosecutor also argues the sympathy side of things: if the federal trial begins when it is supposed to, victims' families will spend all of the holiday season in court rooms (typically not a cheerful place).

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