In the first day of his preliminary hearing March 11, Luka Magnotta maintained his composure: deadpan, with his hands folded and on his lap.
Clad in white T-shirt and jeans, the accused murderer spent most of the hearing wearing a blank stare, occasionally looking around his clear glass prisoner’s box, listening as his lawyer sparred with the prosecution.
The first day of the two-week hearing centred on a defence motion to move the rest of the trial in camera — banning all members of the media and the public from the courtroom.
Luc Leclair, Magnotta’s chief counsel, argued that evidence presented in the case, if reported, could taint the jury pool and compromise the integrity of the trial. While a publication ban on that information has been in place for months, Leclair — citing a PostMedia report that he argued infringed the ban — says the media, especially international outlets not necessarily beholden to Canadian law, could jeopardize his client’s right to a fair trial and should therefore be banned altogether.
Lawyers hired by various Canadian media outlets intervened in the hearing to argue that Leclair’s motion contravened the right to free expression.
Judge Lori-Renee Weitzman took the morning to hear arguments and adjourned until March 12, when she will decide whether to allow media and the public in the courtroom.
A separate ruling she made March 11, however, suggests she’s not likely to agree with Leclair.
The Toronto-based lawyer argued that the publication ban should extend to everything covered in the hearing — including Magnotta’s appearance. Leclair is seeking to have his client hidden behind a curtain, as he feels that showing the accused with handcuffs on, flanked by guards, could taint his client’s view in the public eye.
Weitzman ruled that only the submitted evidence could fall under that publication ban.
The family of Lin Jun, the victim, were also present in the Montreal courthouse to watch the beginning of the preliminary hearing. Their own lawyer, who intervened to contest the motion to hold a closed trial, represented them. He told the court that the family wanted to honour their son by seeing the Canadian justice system run its course.
After this two-week hearing, which could go longer if needed, a new judge will take over the case and a jury will be selected.
Magnotta made his first court appearance in June after being arrested in Berlin earlier in the month, following an international manhunt. He is being tried for a slew of charges stemming from the murder and dismemberment of Chinese national Jun.