CHARLESTON, S.C., Nov. 7 (UPI) -- South Carolina District Judge Richard Gergel postponed the jury selection process in the trial of accused Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof.
Gergel wrote in a public statement released Monday that the selection process to pick 12 jurors would be delayed because he received a motion that he needs to first address with Roof and his lawyers.
"I have received a motion in this case this morning requiring my immediate attention and the conducting of a hearing involving only the defendant and defense counsel. The hearing will be closed to the government and the public," Gergel wrote. "The closing of the hearing is necessary to protect the attorney client privilege and the defendant's right to a fair and impartial jury and a fair trial."
Officials said Roof, 22, confessed to gunning down churchgoers near the end of a Bible study session at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., on June 17, 2015.
Roof wrote in a manifesto that he'd become upset and "racially aware" after the Trayvon Martin case in 2012, and after researching black-on-white crime online. He faces 33 federal charges for the attack on the the AME Church, seen as a prominent part of black history.
Witnesses for the prosecution will be called to testify, including white supremacy extremism experts.
The federal trial is expected to take place in two phases. The first phase is to determine guilt or innocence. The second phase, if found Roof is found guilty, will determine whether the death penalty should apply or if he will instead get life in prison.
Jury selection started in September with a pool of 3,000 potential jurors. The group was vetted and pared down to about 700. The pool will be pared down further to a dozen jurors and six alternates over the coming weeks.
Roof's defense said he would plead guilty if prosecutors did not seek the death penalty.
South Carolina Sen. Clementa Pickney, 41, who was also a pastor at the church; Cynthia Hurd, 54; Tywanza Sanders, 26; Myra Thompson, 59; Ethel Lance, 70; Susie Jackson, 87; and the reverends DePayne Middleton Doctor, 49; Sharonda Singleton, 45; and Daniel Simmons Sr., 74, died in the attack.
Yvette C. Hammett contributed to this report.