Dylann Roof negotiating guilty plea in Charleston church shooting

Dylann Roof, the white man charged in the shooting of nine African Americans at a South Carolina church, entered a temporary not guilty plea today to federal hate crime charges in connection to the shooting.

In addition to state murder charges, Roof faces 33 federal hate crime and weapons charges

Charleston, S.C., shooting suspect Dylann Roof's lawyer says a guilty plea in return for a sentence of life in prison without parole would spare victims' families and shooting survivors from the trauma of a trial. (Chuck Burton/Associated Press)

The white man accused of gunning down nine parishioners at a black church in Charleston, S.C., wants to plead guilty to 33 federal charges, but his lawyer said in court today that he wouldn't do so until prosecutors say whether they'll seek the death penalty.

During a brief arraignment in Federal Court, defence attorney David Bruck said that he couldn't advise his client, Dylann Roof, 21, to enter a guilty plea without knowing the government's intentions.

The plea entered into the court record by U.S. Magistrate Judge Bristow Marchant on Roof's behalf can be changed later. Final motions are due on Sept. 20.

Appearing in court in a grey striped prison jumpsuit, his hands in shackles, Roof answered yes several times in response to the judge's questions, but otherwise didn't speak.

"We believe he understands the tremendous crime that he committed and the heinousness of it," Eduardo Curry, an attorney representing the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the site of last month's massacre, said outside the courtroom.

Marchant also heard briefly from family members of victims of the June 17 attack at the church in downtown Charleston. Several church representatives also spoke.

For the rest of his life, I want him to hear my thoughts.- Tyrone Sanders

More than two dozen survivors and relatives of the victims of last month's killings attended the hearing.

Some of the relatives and survivors came to the front of the courtroom to make statements, many of them in tears.

"For the rest of his life, I want him to hear my thoughts," said Tyrone Sanders, father of victim Tywanza Sanders, 26, and husband of Felicia Sanders, who survived.

"I am hurting inside for what he is accused of doing," Sanders said. "I want him to think about what I'm thinking and continue to think about it."

Roof also faces numerous state charges, including nine counts of murder. Prosecutors in that case also have not said whether they'll seek the death penalty. Roof has not yet entered a plea on the state charges.

With files from Reuters