Prosecutors and defense lawyers in Charleston, S.C., began sifting through 3,000 potential jurors Monday in the death penalty trial of Dylann Roof, the white supremacist charged with killing nine people at a black church last year.
At his request, Roof was present as jury selection got under way in U.S. District Court. He arrived Monday morning chatting with his attorneys, sometimes smiling and glancing around the courtroom. He wasn't in handcuffs.
But once the first panel of about 80 prospective jurors filed in, Roof stared emotionlessly at his lap, looking up only a few times as he sat facing the panel. Between the first and the second panels, he changed from his standard jail uniform into a dark blue sweater with gray pants.
Roof, 22, is charged with 33 federal counts, predominantly involving hate crimes and obstruction of religion in the June 17, 2015, rampage at historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, in which Clementa Pinckney, a state senator who was the church's senior pastor, and eight other parishioners were killed.
Roof separately faces a state trial tentatively scheduled for January on nine state counts of murder.
He could face the death penalty if he's convicted in either trial.
Police have said Roof confessed to the killings. And his attorneys have said he is willing to plead guilty and serve life in prison if the death penalty is removed as an option — an option prosecutors firmly rejected.
U.S. District Judge Richard M. Gergel said it could take as long as three weeks to winnow the pool of 3,000 down to a final jury of 12, plus alternates.
Gergel said that testimony probably won't start until late November or early December and that the jury won't be sequestered.