A federal judge on Monday approved Dylann Roof’s request to represent himself in his hate crimes trial in Charleston. Roof is charged in the June, 2015 killings of 9 worshippers at Emanuel AME Church.
U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel reluctantly granted Roof's request to represent himself in the death penalty case, calling it "unwise." Roof's court-appointed lawyers can still assist in his defense.
The decision to represent himself places Roof in a position to potentially question witnesses, including survivors of the Charleston church massacre. Family members of the shooting victims are also anticipating what it may be like to see and hear Roof prominently in the courtroom.
Former North Carolina state Sen. Malcolm Graham's sister, Cynthia Hurd, was among the 9 Emanuel AME victims. Graham says, having Roof represent himself throws "additional hurdles" into the trial process.
"The only thing he can do is create another platform for him to express himself - his racist views," says Graham. "It's going to be tough for the survivors to possibly be cross-examined by him, to yet again be terrorized by him as they recount what they saw that night," Graham added.
However, Graham also said that in some respects, having such a "vocal presence" by Roof in the courtroom could be good. Graham said that would allow "the community-at-large to see what racism looks like, what it sounds like, and what it can do when it's unchecked."
The process of identified qualified jurors for Roof's federal trial also began Monday. This is the first of two planned trials for Roof, who also faces state charges including 9 counts of murder. That case is scheduled for early next year.