Lawyers in Charleston, S.C., today start the process of finding 12 people to decide the fate of avowed white supremacist Dylann Roof, who is accused of committing one of the worst U.S. massacres in modern times, reports the Charleston Post and Courier. Against a backdrop of polarizing presidential politics and another racially charged trial just across the street, jury selection in the federal death penalty trial of alleged Emanuel AME Church shooter Roof is expected to take weeks.
The nation will be watching as justice is sought for the nine worshipers gunned down during a June 2015 Bible study. Authorities contend Roof targeted his victims because they were black. The 22-year-old man faces 33 federal charges, including violations of hate crime laws and religious freedoms. Race will play a central role in the proceedings, as it will in the murder trial of former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager in a state courtroom next door. Slager, who is white, is charged in the fatal shooting of Walter Scott, a black man, during a confrontation two months before the Emanuel killings. The trials are taking place in a city that still struggles with a tangled and thorny history on race, from its ignominious role in the slave trade to the dark days of the Jim Crow era. “People are waiting with bated breath to see how this plays out and what it means for the nation and for South Carolina,” said Marcus Cox, a former Citadel history professor now at Xavier University in Louisiana. “There’s a lot of historic baggage…”