The government refused [NYT report] a plea offer from accused white supremacist Dylann Roof on Friday. Roof, the man charged with killing nine black church members attending Emanuel AME Church [official website] in Charleston, offered to plead guilty in exchange for a sentence of life in prison. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced her decision in May to pursue the death penalty. “The nature of the alleged crime and the resulting harm compelled this decision,” said Ms. Lynch. The critics for the Justice Department’s decision have several arguments, including the efficacy and morality of the death penalty. William N. Nettles, previous United States attorney for South Carolina, says that a federal death penalty trial would be duplicative as the state is “both willing and able to address the issue.” Roof is also facing a trial for capital crimes in state court beginning in January.
Jury selection for the trail is scheduled to resume on Monday after the delay due to a request for a competency hearing. US District Judge Richard Gergel released an order [PDF, text] that found Roof to be competent [Reuter report] to stand trial. The closed competency hearing included the testimony of Dr. James C. Ballenger, one of the nation’s “most renowned and respected psychologists.” Last year Roof entered a temporary plea [JURIST report] of not guilty. He faces 33 charges including federal hate crimes and firearms charges for killing and attempting to kill African-Americans based on race and in an effort to interfere with the victims right to exercise their religious beliefs