Duane Keith Davis, 60, is charged with murder with use of a deadly weapon in a gang-related homicide for the slaying of the hip-hop artist who was gunned down on the Las Vegas strip after a Mike Tyson fight on 7 September 1996.
During the hearing on Thursday, Mr Davis told a judge that he had been unable to retain Nevada counsel in the case. His arraignment had been put off twice before for that reason and Judge Tierra Jones told him the court would now appoint a lawyer.
Prosecutors told the court that they do not intend to pursue the death penalty against Mr Davis, according to CNN.
Las Vegas attorney Ross Goodman was expected to represent Mr Davis but announced on Wednesday that they had not been able to reach an agreement.
“I support Mr Davis and I hope to get back on the case. There are people trying to get the finances together to get me on the case,” he said in a statement to the cable news network.
Mr Davis, who also goes by the nicknames Keffe D and Keefe D, was arrested by police near his home in Las Vegas on 29 September, hours after a grand jury returned an indictment against him.
Prosecutors then appeared in court where they described him as the “on-ground, on-site commander” who “ordered the death” of Shakur.
The rapper had been in Las Vegas with Suge Knight on 7 September 1996 for Tyson’s WBA heavyweight championship fight against Bruce Seldon at the MGM Grand. Before the fight Tupac and his bodyguards had got into an altercation of their own, brawling with gang member Orlando “Baby Lane” Anderson.
Prosecutors now say that Mr Davis “formulated a plan to exact revenge upon Mr Knight and Mr Shakur” in his nephew’s defence.
On leaving the MGM Grand, Tupac and Knight drove along the strip in their BMW and stopped at a red light at an intersection.
A white Cadillac pulled up beside them and opened fire.
Tupac was shot four times with one of the bullets piercing his lung. He died six days later in hospital.
In both the 2018 Netflix documentary Unsolved: The Tupac and Biggie Murders and in his book Compton Street Legend which he published in 2019, Keffe D claimed that his nephew Orlando Anderson fatally shot Tupac – and that he was in the car with him when he opened fire.
“Tupac made an erratic move and began to reach down beneath his seat,” he writes in the book.
“It was the first and only time in my life that I could relate to the police command, ‘Keep your hands where I can see them.’ Instead, Pac pulled out a strap, and that’s when the fireworks started.
“One of my guys from the back seat grabbed the Glock and started bustin’ back.”
In the memoir, Mr Davis says that he was in the front passenger seat of the Cadillac and had slipped the Glock pistol into the back seat where his nephew sat.
Orlando Anderson was killed in a gang-related shooting in 1998.