A member of Luka Magnotta’s legal team stepped down March 13 as evidence emerged of a possible conflict of interest.
After hearing testimony from several Montreal police officers who investigated the case, the court stumbled on an issue – one that the media is banned from reporting – that could see Magnotta’s now-former lawyer brought to the witness stand.
When chief Crown prosecutor Louis Bouthillier raised the issue, promising to revisit it later in the hearing, Judge Lori-Renee Weitzman told the court that she couldn’t see the case moving forward without dealing with the elephant in the room. The court broke for lunch as both sides navigated the thorny legal situation.
After lunch, the defence considered breaking until March 15 to give themselves time to prepare their case to fight the application. Magnotta lawyer Luc Leclair told the court that he did not believe there to be a conflict.
Bouthillier iterated that there were no ethical problems involved, highlighting only that the situation would make it near-impossible for the defence to question, or cross-examine, one of their own team.
After taking one more break to consider the suspension, Leclair announced that the lawyer in question (who cannot be named or identified by gender) would voluntarily cease working on the case.
This legal wrangling comes after the court spent much of the day March 11 debating the merits of holding the entire court case behind closed doors and limiting the ability of the press to report on the case – including Magnotta’s clothing, as well as the fact that he is in custody. Weitzman ruled that the case should be open to the public and the press must be allowed to report the details of the case, except evidence and testimony.
Magnotta spent most of his March 12 testimony looking indifferent, staring vaguely at the court. He spent the latter half of the day clutching headphones. March 13, however, he looked more animated – his closed hand up to his mouth as he watched the evidence presented.
The family of victim Lin Jun was on hand March 11 and 12 but did not attend court on March 13. The court has set aside reserved seating for the family, their lawyer and translator.
The preliminary hearing continues until at least March 22.