The white man accused of gunning down nine parishioners at a black church in Charleston wants to plead guilty to 33 federal charges, but his lawyer said in court today that he couldn't advise his client to do so until prosecutors say whether they'll seek the death penalty. During a brief arraignment in federal court, defense attorney David Bruck said that he couldn't counsel his client, Dylann Roof, to enter a guilty plea without knowing the government's intentions. US Magistrate Judge Bristow Marchant then entered a not guilty plea for Roof, 21. Appearing in court in a gray striped prison jumpsuit, his hands in shackles, Roof answered yes several times in response to the judge's questions but otherwise didn't speak.
Eighteen of the 33 charges against Roof could potentially carry the death penalty, while conviction on each of the others could mean a life prison sentence. Each charge also carries the possibility of hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. Roof also faces numerous state charges, including nine counts of murder and another potential death penalty prosecution. The Justice Department has not said if its case will come first, and the state also has not announced its decision on the death penalty. Also during today's hearing, Marchant accepted Roof's application as an indigent defendant—meaning the state will pay for his attorneys—and formalized the appointment of Bruck and another defense lawyer, Michael O'Connell.