A South Carolina judge set a July 11, 2016, trial date for Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old accused of gunning down nine people at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston last month.
Roof faces nine counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder in the June 17 shooting spree at the historic black church.
Circuit Judge J.C. Nicholson also heard arguments from news organizations including the Charleston Post and Courier and the Associated Press, which challenged a court order preventing law enforcement agencies from releasing evidence in the case — including 911 calls and graphic images that depict the crime scene.
Nicholson extended the gag order for another week, until July 22, noting that releasing the documents could pose a threat to Roof’s right to a fair trial, and harm victims of the shooting, or impede the ongoing criminal investigation.
He specifically expressed concerns about the release of graphic images of victims in the church and 911 calls conducted during the shooting — if those images and calls exist.
Roof appeared in court for the brief hearing Thursday and appeared emotionless, according to WCBD. In a previous hearing, Roof appeared in court through a video feed from the detention center where he was being held.
Prosecutor Scarlett Wilson reiterated at Thursday’s trial that Roof could face the death penalty in the case. In the past, she has said that she will make her decision after speaking with the victims’ families.
In South Carolina, prosecutors can seek the death penalty if there are certain “aggravating factors” involved in a case. One such aggravating factor is whether a person is being charged with murdering two or more people during a single act.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) has called for Roof to face the death penalty.
Roof’s attorney, public defender Ashley Pennington, did not seek bond.
Pennington noted that he and his client are able to communicate with each other and that there is no “issue at all” about his competency to stand trial.
“He is able to cooperate and understand what we are communicating with him, he asks questions,” Pennington said. “So I don’t see any issue at all that relates to competency at this time.”
Mark Berman contributed to this report, which has been updated.