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Norway: Developments in Mass Murder Case

(Jan. 20, 2012) On January 13, 2012, the Oslo District Court ordered a new psychiatric evaluation of criminal suspect Anders Behring Breivik, who has confessed to launching a car-bomb attack against government ministries in Oslo and killing a large number of young people on Utoya Island outside the city on July 22, 2011. Judge Wenche Elizabeth Arden stated at a news conference, “[d]ue to the gravity of this case, the criminal responsibility (of Breivik) must be examined again.” (Court Orders New Psychiatric Review of Breivik, HERALD SUN (Jan. 14, 2012).)

Judge Arden noted as other factors in the decision the prison officials' failure to see signs of mental illness in Breivik and the widespread criticism with which the initial evaluation had been met. (Norway Considers Fresh Exam of Anders Behring Breivik, THE TELEGRAPH (Dec. 22, 2011); Stephen Treloar & Josiane Kremer, Oslo Court Orders New Psychiatric Evaluation of Killer Breivik, BLOOMBERG (Jan. 13, 2012); see also Who, What, Why: How Do You Assess A Killer's Mental Health?, BBC NEWS (Nov. 29, 2011).)

The first report, issued on November 29, 2011, and concluding that Breivik should be deemed criminally insane because he suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and so is not accountable for his actions, was approved by Norway's seven-member Board of Forensic Medicine on December 22, 2011.The court named two new experts to evaluate the suspect's mental health before the beginning of his trial, now scheduled to start on April 16, 2012. However, Breivik has reportedly indicated that he will not cooperate with this new evaluation. (Court Orders New Psychiatric Review of Breivik, supra; Treloar & Kremer, supra;Norway Considers Fresh Exam of Anders Behring Breivik, supra.)

At his first public court hearing, held on November 14, 2011 (previous hearings were closed to the press), Breivik attempted to deliver a speech on his self-described role as a resistance leader, but was cut short by the presiding judge, who also refused Breivik's request to address the massacre survivors and the victims' relatives. At that hearing, the judge granted the prosecutors' request for Breivik to remain in custody until the criminal trial begins. (Norway Judge Silences Breivik in Court, CBS NEWS (Nov. 14, 2011).) Originally, Breivik was to appear at the hearing through video link from prison, but his attorney persuaded the Norwegian Supreme Court shortly beforehand to suspend the original decision mandating a video appearance. (Norway Gunman Breivik Makes First Appearance Since Twin Terror Attacks (Video), THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR (Nov. 14, 2011); see also Oslo City Court, Decision of Nov. 4, 2011, re Request for Remote Meeting in Detention Case [in Norwegian], Case No. 11-175124ENE-OTIR/03.)