Hundreds of potential jurors will report to the federal courthouse in Charleston, South Carolina, in the coming days as the jury selection begins in the trial of a white man charged in deaths of nine black church parishioners.
Dylann Roof faces hate crimes and other federal counts in the June 2015 shooting deaths at Emanuel AME Church. The first jurors report on Monday for initial screening.
Three thousand jurors have received summonses. That group will be whittled to a pool of 700 jurors who will return to the courthouse in November to be questioned individually by the judge.
Testimony is not expected to begin until after Thanksgiving.
While federal prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, Roof’s attorneys say he is willing to plead guilty and serve life if the death penalty is taken off the table.
Prosecutors allege Roof posed with the Confederate battle flag before the killings and talked of starting a race war.
In the death-penalty trial last year of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, jury selection took about two months with weather and other delays. The guilt and sentencing phases took almost nine weeks.
Like the Tsarnaev trial, the Roof trial will be in two phases: a first to decide guilt or innocence and, if he is convicted, a second to determine if he should be sentenced to life in prison or death.
The 22-year-old Roof also faces nine murder charges in state court in a trial that is set to begin next year. The state is also seeking the death penalty in that case.