CHARLESTON, S.C. — The jurors who will ultimately decide whether Dylann Roof should be put to death for the allegedly hate-fueled killing of nine black churchgoers resemble the makeup up of the community touched by tragedy last year.
On Wednesday, just before opening statements began in Roof's capital hate crimes trial, federal prosecutors and the defense team chose three black jurors and nine white jurors to sit on the panel of 12. A group of six alternates is composed of two black and four white jurors, according to an official courtroom pool report provided to members of the press by the Charleston Post and Courier.
That's nearly proportional to the make up of Charleston, which is 70% white and 25% black, according to the United States Census Bureau.
Roof, 22, has pleaded not guilty to a 33-count federal indictment, over the attack he allegedly carried out at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston on June 17, 2015, because the parishioners were black. The feds said there is irrefutable evidence that Roof sought revenge against the churchgoers for wrongs he felt have been committed against whites by African-Americans.
The government's case against Roof also includes charges for Roof's criminal use of a firearm in the alleged attempted murder of three other Emanuel members.
On Wednesday morning, the prosecution and defense whittled the final jury and alternates down from a crop of 67 potential jurors, who were qualified for the trial last week. Among them, 22.4% were black and 74.6% were white, according to demographic makeup provided by federal court officials.
In recent weeks, Roof had asked U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel for permission to fire his attorneys and represent himself. After the judge granted the motion, Roof oversaw much of the voir dire process, during which the 67 potential jurors were reduced from hundreds.
However, on Monday, Gergel approved Roof's request to bring back his attorneys. They were present to address the jury for opening statements on Wednesday.
As for the jurors who were not chosen, Gergel dismissed them and thanked them for their service. "I noticed a little smile on some of your faces," he said.
Dec. 10, 2016, 1:25 p.m. Eastern: This story has been updated.