Judge Grants Extension for Emanuel Families to Respond to Government’s Motion to Dismiss



(ABC Columbia/FILE) Mother Emanuel AME church massacre

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) — Attorneys representing the families of the Emanuel AME Church shooting victims have been given more than two extra months to prepare a response to the U.S. government’s motion to dismiss the case against it.

Court documents show attorneys Gedney Howe and Andy Savage now have until Jan. 27, 2017 to respond to the motion to dismiss. Savage is currently defending Michael Slager, the former North Charleston police officer accused of murder in the shooting death of Walter Scott. That case is in its fourth week and expected to go for at least another week after Thanksgiving.

The original date for response was Oct. 31.

The government argues the lawsuit lacks “subject matter jurisdiction” and does not make a claim on which relief can be granted by the court.

The families of the victims and survivors filed separate lawsuits in July and August, naming the U.S. government as a defendant in the negligence lawsuit because they say the federal database in place to prevent some people from making gun purchases failed.

If the agency had done its job, Roof’s prior drug arrest would have shown up, and the bureau would have denied his purchase, the lawsuits filed this summer allege.

The lawsuits seek unspecified actual and compensatory damages.

Attorney Andy Savage said in July that since the shooting the survivors and victims have watched repeated failures in the screening process lead to a system that forces states to find workarounds to protect their citizens from a “deficient federal system.”

FBI Director James Comey has said Roof shouldn’t have been able to buy the gun and promised a full review. In a statement issued in July of 2015, Comey said the check by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System followed protocols.

He also said he believes the store where the gun was purchased was within the law when they sold Roof the gun.

Lexington County Sheriff Jay Koon told the AP that a jail clerk entered incorrect information for Roof’s February 2015 drug arrest, and that while the mistake was noticed within days, it wasn’t fixed in a state database.

So when Roof sought to buy the gun two months later, an FBI examiner spotted the arrest, but called the wrong agency to get his record. Without the necessary documents, the purchase had to go through.

Congress has limited federal background checks to three days, although states can extend this window.

South Carolina legislators filed a number of bills to increase the window after the shootings, but none advanced.

Roof faces the death penalty in state and federal courts for the shooting at Emanuel AME that left nine people dead.

His federal trial has been delayed by weeks as the judge presiding over the case listens to arguments in a competency hearing. His state trial is expected to start sometime after the New Year.

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