MONTREAL (Reuters) - A Canadian admitted in court on Monday that he killed a Chinese student and mailed body parts to Canadian political parties and schools but his lawyer said the defendant was schizophrenic and therefore not criminally responsible.
Laying out the government’s case, the prosecutor said evidence would show that Luka Magnotta, 32, started planning to kill a human being and make a movie of it at least six months before the 2012 killing of Chinese student Jun Lin, 33, in Montreal.
A publication ban imposed by the court at a preliminary hearing barred media from reporting certain details of the case. Explicit details were publicized during the international search to capture Magnotta, but cannot be repeated. The jury was not being sequestered.
Magnotta is charged with the first-degree murder of Lin and with committing indignities to Lin’s body and broadcasting obscene material. He is accused of dismembering Lin and mailing body parts to Canadian political parties and to two elementary schools, news of which horrified Canadians and garnered headlines around the world.
Magnotta admitted to the acts underlying the five offences he is charged with, including killing Lin, but he pleaded not guilty to each charge.
“A person is not responsible if he or she suffers from a mental disorder at the time of the act,” defense lawyer Luc Leclair told the jury.
Wearing black pants and a gray sweater, Magnotta stood beside Leclair behind a glass panel in the tiny Montreal courtroom and responded “not guilty” as each of the five charges was read by the court clerk.
Prosecutor Louis Bouthillier said an alleged email from Magnotta to a journalist in 2011, some six months before the killing, indicates Lin’s murder was planned and deliberate.
“It is our position that this email makes it clear that Mr. Magnotta planned to kill a human being and make a movie,” he said.
Defense lawyer Leclair said Magnotta had been seen for years by different psychiatrists, and that he had been diagnosed in Montreal in 2012 with having a borderline personality disorder. Other psychiatrists have diagnosed him with schizophrenia, Leclair said.
Surveillance images from Magnotta’s apartment building in Montreal in 2012 showed him walking with Lin, an engineering student and convenience store clerk, Bouthillier said.
“These images from the surveillance cameras are the last images of Jun Lin alive,” the prosecutor added. “Mr. Jun Lin’s head will be found in Angrignon Park about a month after his death.”
A police witness described gruesome items retrieved from garbage bags and a fly-covered suitcase dumped near Magnotta’s apartment building.
The prosecutor said the jury will also see a video allegedly made by Magnotta that shows the killing.
Eight women and six men make up the jury, but two of the 14 will be dismissed at the end of the trial with the remaining 12 left to deliberate.
“You must avoid all media coverage of this case,” Quebec Superior Court Justice Guy Cournoyer told the jurors. “Keep an open mind as the evidence is presented.”
Cournoyer told jurors not to tweet about the trial.
Lin’s father, Diran Lin, traveled from China and was in the courtroom. He intends to stay in Montreal until the end of the trial, Diran Lin’s lawyer said. The trial is expected to last six weeks.
Flanked by a team of volunteer Mandarin-language interpreters, Diran Lin’s eyes blurred with tears as his lawyer took questions from reporters in English and French.
“The father is here. He wants his questions answered,” the lawyer, Daniel Urbas, told reporters. “He wants to know how it happened, what happened to his son, when it happened and especially why, even though that may not ever really be given as evidence in this case.”
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.
Writing by Andrea Hopkins; Editing by Amran Abocar; and Peter Galloway