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Magnotta pleads not guilty to five charges, including first-degree murder

Defence lawyer loses bid to bar media and public from trial to begin in 2014

Luka Magnotta refused to confess to charges against him, including first-degree murder. Credit: Xtra file photo

The man at the centre of one of Canada’s most gruesome and spectacular murders pled not guilty to the five charges before him in a Montreal court Nov 13.

As expected, Luka Magnotta refused to confess to the charges, even in the face of considerable evidence against him.

Magnotta first pled not guilty in June and waived his right to a psychiatric assessment — which, given his history with schizophrenia, might have saved him from ever facing jail time.

But the 31-year-old Scarborough, Ontario, native and his team of lawyers stuck to professing his innocence throughout a month-long preliminary hearing in March and April. Magnotta’s lawyers — one of whom excused himself during the proceedings — heard a bevy of evidence against their client, including some video evidence, as their client watched from a large Plexiglas prisoner’s box.

A Quebec court indicted Magnotta on charges of first-degree murder, offering indignities to a human body, broadcasting obscene materials, using the post office to distribute obscene materials, and harassment of the prime minister and other members of Parliament.

His principle defence counsel, Toronto lawyer Luc Leclair, had attempted to get the court to accept a lesser charge of second-degree murder, to no avail. He told the court that the evidence presented was circumstantial and failed to show planning and deliberate intent. The judge felt otherwise and ordered Magnotta to stand trial on all the charges in September 2014.

Leclair had few victories during the hearing, as virtually every petition he made to the court — including one to have the media and public barred from the proceedings — failed.

The full trial, between public interest and wall-to-wall media coverage, promises to be a circus. During his preliminary hearing — the entirety of which is covered under a publication ban and cannot be made public until a jury is sequestered during the main trial — several self-identified supporters travelled to the Montreal courthouse to express their support for the accused murderer.

While Magnotta remained largely blank-faced during the proceedings last spring, he did lose consciousness briefly while watching video evidence presented by the Montreal police during one highly publicized day in March.

While it’s unclear whether the family of victim Lin Jun will travel to Quebec for the proceedings in September, Jun’s father was present for several days of the hearings in the spring, accompanied by his lawyer.