June 7, 2012 — -- A television news camera caught a judge at the trial of mass killer Anders Breivik playing solitaire on his laptop this week while an expert on religion testified about the ideas that led the extremist to massacre 77 people.
Norway's VGTV news station filmed the testimony of religion professor Mattias Gardell over the shoulder of judge Ernst Henning Eielsen, one of the five justices who will decide Breivik's fate. Eielsen can be seen staring at his computer screen and playing a version of Free Cell solitaire on his computer for 16 minutes.
Gardell, a professor of comparative religion at Sweden's Uppsala University, was testifying that Breivik's extremism was rooted in "white power" ideology and right-wing theology and not necessarily a sign of mental illness. Gardell was called as a defense witness, since Breivik has asked his lawyers to establish that he was sane at the time of the crime.
In Norway's justice system, a panel of judges rather than a jury determines guilt or innocence, and some of the judges, like Eielsen, are laypeople appointed to four-year terms. In cases like Breivik's, five judges – two of them professional, and three of them laypeople – preside over the case.
Norway's Verdens Gang newspaper reports that Eielsen has been an active judge over the course of the trial, and has often questioned witnesses.
"The judges are attentively following what is being said and what is being presented to the court," court spokesperson Irene Ramm told AFP. "There are different ways of staying focused."
Breivik has admitted killed 77 people last July during a bombing and shooting spree in Oslo and at a youth summer camp on a nearby island. He insists his violent actions were part of a crusade against Islamic immigration and Norway's increasingly multicultural society.
His trial, which is in its eighth week, is expected to continue for another few weeks before a verdict can be reached.
If Breivik is found to be sane, he will be sentenced to 21 years in prison, though authorities have the option of extending his detention after the end of his sentence. If he is found to be mentally ill, he will be placed in psychiatric care.