Judge denies motion for mistrial in Charleston church shooting case

This photo provided by Charleston County Sheriff's Office shows Dylann Roof, Thursday, June 18, 2015. Roof, 21, was arrested Thursday in the slayings of several people Wednesday, including the pastor, at a prayer meeting inside The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. (Charleston County Sheriff's Office via AP)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) – A federal judge has denied the defense’s motion for a mistrial in Dylann Roof’s death penalty trial.

Defense attorneys had asked for a mistrial, saying a witness’s remarks that he is evil and belongs in the “pit of hell” were inappropriate.

Roof is on trial on 33 federal counts, including hate crimes, in the June 2015 shootings of nine black parishioners during a Bible study at Emanuel AME Church last year.

In a motion filed Thursday morning, the defense asked for a mistrial after shooting survivor Felicia Sanders took the stand Wednesday and called Roof “evil, evil, evil” and said he should be in “the pit of hell.”

In the motion, the defense said such statements have no place in a courtroom. The motion asks that, if a mistrial is not granted, prosecutors be prohibited from mentioning the testimony in their closing arguments. The court has not yet taken up the motion.

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