The next act in the “Canadian Psycho” drama that has riveted Canada (and much of the western world) opened Tuesday as Luka Magnotta’s preliminary hearing began in a Montreal courtroom.
Magnotta, a former porn actor, is accused of last year’s savage murder of Chinese foreign exchange student Jun Lin, who he allegedly stabbed to death, dismembered, and then committed necrophiliac acts upon. Magnotta allegedly ate some of Lin’s corpse as well. As if the shocking details of the crime weren’t horrific enough, Magnotta then mailed Lin’s body parts across the country – to Canada’s Conservative and Liberal Party headquarters in Ottawa and to two schools in Vancouver. Lin’s head was later found in a Montreal park.
With an international manhunt underway for almost a week, Magnotta was ultimately tracked down and arrested in a Berlin internet café. A week later, he was extradited back to Montreal to await proceedings. The last time Magnotta was seen in public was in his first court appearance back in June 2012.
The first day of the prelim saw Michel Bourke, a major crimes investigator for the Montreal Police Department, and crime scene technician Caroline Simoneau take the stand. What they testified to exactly remains a mystery to anyone outside that courtroom. According to Canadian law, details of preliminary hearing testimony are subject to a publication ban. Put simply, the media cannot publish details about what is said in court.
However, reporters are allowed to observe and report what they see – and what they reported was dramatic. Jun Lin’s father Daran became emotional during Simoneau’s testimony and rushed out of the courtroom in tears. According to a local TV reporter, Daran Lin was seated near a Magnotta admirer, who spent the hearing gazing longingly at the accused.
Magnotta watched the proceedings alone from the safety of a glassed-in area on the side of the courtroom. At the start of proceedings, Magnotta wore a white t-shirt and khaki pants, but donned a black jacket in the afternoon; he paid close attention to the proceedings.
If the defense had its way, the courtroom would have been empty save for the defendant and attorneys. Citing the overwhelming publicity the case has received and their client’s right to an untainted jury, Magnotta’s lawyers called on the judge to utilize a Canadian statute that allows a judge to bar both the media and the public from a courtroom “where it appears to him that the ends of justice will be best served by so doing.”
Just before the start of the preliminary hearing, Judge Weitzman ruled against the defense, noting that the publication ban is meant to deter details of the crime from tainting the potential jury pool. Members of the public, who had been lined up for hours for courtroom seats, were allowed to sit in along with the media and the victim’s family.
Magnotta’s preliminary hearing is slated to last two to four weeks, after which time Judge Lori-Renee Weitzman will decide whether there is sufficient evidence against Magnotta to take him to trial. Magnotta has been charged with first-degree murder; Committing an indignity to a body; Publishing obscene material; Criminally harassing Prime Minister Stephen Harper and members of Parliament; and Mailing obscene and indecent material. If convicted, he faces life imprisonment.
Whether or not a member of the public publishes details of the case on social media is yet to be seen.