The trial of Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people last July, was disrupted at the start of its second day on Tuesday when it emerged that one of the lay judges had said the death penalty would be the only just punishment.
The presiding judge, Wenche Elizabeth Arntzen, confirmed a media report that Thomas I., a 33-year-old receptionist from Oslo, had written an online comment on the day after the attack last July that "the death penalty is the only just punishment!!!!!!!!" for Breivik.
Norway doesn't have the death penalty.
Breivik's defense attorneys, the state prosecutors and the co-plaintiffs called for the judge to be removed because his impartiality was in doubt. The court retired for brief consultation and decided that the lay judge be dismissed and replaced by a backup judge.
Police had spent Monday night checking whether Thomas I. had written the comment found under an article published by the newspaper VG. An online anti-racism magazine, Vepsen, had reported that the lay judge used a Facebook profile for his comment. Vepsen tracked the corresponding email address back to him, and also found his portrait photo.
'A Serious Setback'
The editor-in-chief of Expo, a Swedish Internet magazine linked with Vepsen, told SPIEGEL ONLINE: "That could be a serious setback for the trial."
Three citizens were selected at random to sit with two professional judges on the panel trying Breivik.
The maximum penalty Breivik faces, if found criminally responsible, is 21 years in prison, but this could be extended indefinitely if he is still considered a danger to society after that period.
At the start of his trial on Monday, Breivik, 33, gave a clenched-fist salute, smirked at the court and pleaded not guilty.
Once the trial resumed on Tuesday, Breivik read from a prepared statement and boasted about the killings.
"I have carried out the most sophisticated and spectacular attack committed in Europe since the Second World War," he told the court.
Breivik has said he acted in defense of his own country by setting off a car bomb in Oslo that killed eight people in the government district of Oslo, and then shooting dead 69 people at a youth summer camp organized by the ruling Labour Party.