After his own lawyers challenged his mental fitness for trial, Dylann Roof - accused of killing 9 black parishioners in South Carolina last year - has won the right to act as his own attorney in his federal death penalty trial.
Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel said he would reluctantly accept the 22-year-old's "unwise" decision. Roof, an avowed white supremacist, is charged with counts including hate crimes and obstruction of religion in connection with the June 17, 2015 attack at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. During the massacre, Roof shouted racial insults at the six women and three men he is charged with killing, authorities said - leaving three unharmed so they could tell the world the shootings were because he hated black people.
How will the judge prevent the trial from becoming a spectacle, a platform for racist rhetoric, and another attack on victims who Roof might question? If convicted, could Roof's "pro se representation" increase the risk of an appeal based on his own supposed incompetence representing himself?
Eric L. Muller, Professor of Law, University of North Carolina School of Law