MONTREAL (Reuters) - Jury selection for the trial of a Canadian man accused of murdering and dismembering a Chinese student in Montreal in 2012 began on Monday and the defense said finding 14 impartial jurors will be difficult but not impossible.
The trial of Luka Magnotta, set to begin once 12 jurors and two alternates are selected from 1,600 potential candidates, is expected to be one of the most grisly and sensational murder trials in Canadian history.
A publication ban imposed by the court bars media from reporting certain details of the case. The details are the most explicit in the case and were publicized during the manhunt for Magnotta, 32, but cannot be repeated.
Magnotta is alleged to have killed Chinese student Jun Lin, 33, dismembered him, and mailed the body parts to Canadian political parties and two elementary schools. As well as first-degree murder, he has been charged with committing indignities to Lin’s body and broadcasting obscene material. He has pleaded not guilty.
Magnotta’s lawyer, Luc Leclair, said Magnotta was “a little shocked” by the number of potential jurors summoned for his trial. Leclair said it would be more challenging than usual to select a jury because of the pretrial publicity, which generated global headlines.
“I don’t think it is going to be easy but I think we ought to be able to find 14,” Leclair told reporters at a Montreal courthouse.
“What I’m looking for is someone who’s intelligent, someone who’s open-minded.”
Magnotta listened to the mostly French-language proceedings through an interpreter. He alternately closed his eyes and gazed intently at potential jurors.
Reporters inside the room watched as a stream of candidates asked to be excused because they did not understand both English and French, felt biased, or were revolted by the crimes.
The killing of Lin in the early summer of 2012 shocked Canadians and grabbed headlines around the world. Magnotta was the subject of an international manhunt. He was arrested in an Internet cafe in Berlin, where he was reading about himself.
Quebec Superior Court Judge Guy Cournoyer told about 400 potential jurors crowded into a drab gray hall at the Montreal courthouse that candidates who had followed media reports of the case would not automatically be disqualified from serving.
Rather, jurors must be impartial, able to understand English and French, and capable of listening to “disturbing” testimony, Cournoyer said.
Lin’s father, Diran Lin, is expected to travel to Montreal from China to attend at least part of the murder trial.
Writing by Andrea Hopkins; Editing by Peter Galloway