The Australian man who pleaded guilty to the death of 51 Muslims in a terrorist attack in Christchurch in March 2019 chose to stand for re-conviction next month.
Brenton Tarrant pleaded guilty in March to 51 counts of murder, 40 of attempted murder and one charge of terrorism after dozens of worshipers were killed in two mosques in New Zealand last year.
He appeared to have published a white supremacist manifesto online before the attack, which was broadcast live on Facebook.
At an information hearing in the Christchurch High Court on Monday morning, Tarrant’s lawyers confirmed that they were withdrawing their state-funded representation from him.
Tarrant appeared via audio-visual link from his Auckland high security prison.
“Because Mr. Tarrant wants to represent himself at sentencing, I will be appointing a lawyer to fill the role of reserve counsel,” said Justice Cameron Mander, in a statement.
“The role of the duty counsel is to assist the accused if and to the extent that he or she wishes to accept the assistance of that lawyer.”
Aya Al-Umari, whose brother Hussein Al-Umari was killed at al Noor mosque, said the shooter’s decision to represent himself was an attempt at attention. “It is a tactic to want to stay relevant in the news by any means possible,” she told the Guardian.
Tarrant will be sentenced on August 24 and risks life in prison without the possibility of parole – a sentence no one in New Zealand has received before.
The sentence should be long – it should take three days – as dozens of his victims and bereaved families are likely to make statements.
The shooter’s decision to represent himself created “an incredibly difficult task for the judge” to ensure that the proceedings were closely monitored, said Chris Gallavin, law professor at Massey University in Palmerston North.
But he added that New Zealand’s legal tradition derived from Britain was “more austere” than the often fluid court procedures seen in countries like the United States, and that there would be little opportunity for Tarrant to express themselves – especially if they wanted to express ideological opinions. .
The judge “cannot deny him the opportunity to speak, but he will pounce on him if he appears to be using it as an opportunity to stand,” said Gallavin.
The judge had some control over the hearing and would likely allow victims and bereaved families to read their statements before Tarrant is allowed to say anything, Gallavin said.
He said a New Zealand court would not allow an equivalent of the highly political one hour statement read by Anders Behring Breivik at his 2012 trial after killing 77 people in an attack in Norway – and would suspend the hearing if it “got out of control”.