MARTINEZ -- A Pittsburg man jailed since 2008 and charged with murder, human trafficking and making threats against a public official was granted the right to represent himself in court Friday by a Contra Costa judge.

Derrick Harper, 36, will be the fifth attorney assigned to his case.

"It is not my choice," Harper said in a gravelly voice from inside the prisoners enclosure in Judge Terri Mockler's courtroom. "I have to. My rights have been violated. My back's against the wall."

Before granting Harper's request, Mockler asked him a few basic questions about the law and what will be his first challenge -- a preliminary trial June 23 related to his murder charge.

"The prosecutor will be trying to show some kind of probable cause to bind me over (for trial)," he said. "It doesn't take much."

Deputy District Attorney Mary Knox argued against Harper's motion, citing his criminal background, his occasional courtroom outbursts and his disruptive behavior inside County Jail.

"None of what you said happened while he was representing himself," Mockler told Knox, before granting Harper's request.

Contact Gary Peterson at 925-952-5053. Follow him at Twitter.com/garyscribe.