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Trial date set for S.C. church shooting suspect Dylann Roof, gag order extended

By Amy R. Connolly
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Trial date set for S.C. church shooting suspect Dylann Roof, gag order extended
Dylann Roof, the man accused in a shooting spree that left nine dead at a historic Charleston, South Carolina church appears before a judge on June 19. Roof was charged with nine counts of murder and one count of possession of a firearm. Roof will be in court Thursday regarding a media request for documents. File/Pool/UPI

COLUMBIA, S.C., July 16 (UPI) -- A South Carolina judge set a July 11, 2016 trial date for Dylann Roof, suspected of gunning down nine people in a Charleston church last month, and extended a gag order that restricts public access to information about the shooting, including 911 calls and medical examiner reports.

Roof, 21, who is facing nine counts of murder, three counts of attempted murder and a weapons charge in the June 17 rampage at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church, also waived his right to bond Thursday morning. Roof's attorney said a mental competency evaluation shows an "online GED, he can read, he writes, he understands."

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"I don't see any issue with competency at this time," attorney Ashley Pennington told Circuit Judge J.C. Nicholson. Roof appeared thin and was quiet during the 25-minute hearing, wearing a gray jumpsuit and in handcuffs.

Nicholson also extended a gag order for another week, until July 22, after hearing arguments from media outlets, including the Charleston Post and Courier as well as the Associated Press, that challenged the court's decision to prevent law enforcement agencies from releasing evidence in the case. Nicholson expressed concerns the images would risk Roof's right to a fair trial and harm the victims, their families and the ongoing criminal investigation. He gave them until 5 p.m. Wednesday to file a motion to prevent the gag order from being lifted.

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Authorities have not yet disclosed if they will pursue hate-crime charges against Roof, who allegedly was attempting to start a race war when he opened fire in the historically black church. Roof has not entered a plea.

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