Attorneys for Dylann Roof, accused of shooting nine parishioners at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., are calling the federal case unconstitutional and asking for those charges to be dropped, WCSC reports.
The court documents, which were filed Tuesday, assert that the case against Roof should be handled by the state of South Carolina. Attorneys are claiming that the federal government does not have the authority to prosecute him under the commerce clause and the 13th Amendment, which made slavery illegal, the news station notes. They are also claiming that the federal case goes against the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment.
“The charges at issue are extremely grave, but under the Constitution they are not properly charged,” Sarah Gannett, one of Roof’s attorneys, said. “The defendant therefore requests that the indictment be dismissed.”
Federal prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Roof, who is facing 33 charges for the mass shooting that left nine people dead, including state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, who was also the pastor of the church. Jury selection for the federal trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 7.
Roof's attorneys claim that he will plead guilty if the government drops its pursuit of the death penalty.
"The motion is being made only because the statutes at issue form the basis of the government's request for the death penalty," the motion states. "Should the government's death notice be withdrawn at any point in the future, the defendant will withdraw this motion and plead guilty as charged to all counts in the indictment."
Read more at WCSC.