“What a difference a decade makes.”
Justice Fergus O’Donnell, playing at a profound understatement, wrote these words comparing his first experience with Luka Magnotta — then Eric Newman — and the trial Magnotta faces today.
O’Donnell passed down a decision April 3, ruling that court documents — a letter about Magnotta’s mental health history from the Rouge Valley Health Centre — should be made public, ruling against Magnotta lawyer Luc Leclair.
Leclair was looking to suppress the two-page letter from Thuraisamy Sooriabalan, the doctor who diagnosed Magnotta with paranoid schizophrenia. That letter eerily foreshadowed things to come.
“As long as Mr Newman continues to take the medications regularly, and attends the outpatient department as advised, the prognosis is fair,” Sooriabalan wrote. “But if he does not comply in taking the medication, he would be prone to a relapse of his symptoms, which include paranoia, auditory hallucinations, fear of the unknown, etc.”
The Toronto doctor wrote that prognosis after being contacted by a lawyer representing Magnotta on May 30, 2005. Seven years later, to the day, Magnotta would be named as the suspect in the brutal murder of Chinese student Lin Jun.
Earlier this week, Jun’s family held a press conference ahead of the traditional Chinese Qingming Festival, which is a time for people to honour the dead. Jun’s mother told reporters, through a translator, that she had lost the will to live and is still, a year later, overcome with grief at the loss of her son. The family, which includes Jun’s younger sister, is working with Montreal lawyer Daniel Urbas to ensure that Jun’s memory isn’t forgotten in the fray. Urbas is working pro bono, at times accompanying Jun’s father in the courtroom, and pulling him out if the evidence being presented is too much for him to handle.
In 2005, Magnotta was facing charges related to credit card fraud and sexual assault. The case involved a group of locals from Magnotta’s neighbourhood, one of whom was on trial alongside Magnotta.
The co-accused, Antonio Minakakis, told PostMedia last summer, “He had a very weird way to him. Very weird. His eyes. He was very unstable, very shaky. I don’t know if he was on meds or what . . . He was schizo. That’s what we used to say: ‘The guy’s schizo.’”
Magnotta pleaded guilty to more than $10,000 worth of credit card fraud. He had orchestrated the scheme with a local girl — whom court documents say was 21 but had the mental capacity of an adolescent. He had met her online and registered several credit cards under her name.
Her father later pressed charges against Magnotta for sexual assault. The details are unclear, as the woman’s father later withdrew the charges.
The court ended up giving Magnotta nine months’ conditional sentencing, 20 hours of community service and a year’s worth of probation. All on the condition that he took his medication and sought counselling.
“It is clear from the letter . . . that Mr Newman has some significant psychiatric issues that may have contributed to his lack of judgment in these offences,” counsel for the Crown told the court in 2005.
Leclair, who has vigorously fought to suppress much of Magnotta’s medical past, has not yet filed for a psychiatric assessment for his client, waiving his first chance to apply for one. While the defence could still make an argument that Magnotta was not criminally responsible for his crime, due to his mental state, nothing thus far in the preliminary hearing has suggested that he is planning to make that case.
The preliminary hearing resumes on Monday, April 8. Xtra is following the story.