A judge has ordered Luka Rocco Magnotta to stand trial on a first-degree murder charge in the death of Chinese student Lin Jun.
Quebec court Justice Lori-Renee Weitzman concluded on Friday there was enough evidence to send Mr. Magnotta to trial on the charge of premeditated murder. Crown prosecutor Louis Bouthillier said he was satisfied with Judge Weitzman’s ruling.
“We’re more than happy with the committal to trial on all the charges that were laid against Mr. Magnotta,” Mr. Bouthillier said. “You understand that I won’t comment on the evidence because there’s a publication ban on the evidence. We were obviously very satisfied with the court’s decision this afternoon.
“I wish to salute the hard work done by the police officers in this case. They worked very hard and there’s still a lot of work to be done. We’re looking forward to the trial in 2014.”
Mr. Magnotta, 30, was arrested in Berlin last summer and eventually charged in the killing and dismemberment of Lin, 33, in Montreal last May. He is facing four other charges related to the case: committing an indignity to a body; publishing obscene material; criminally harassing Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other members of Parliament; and mailing obscene and indecent material.
He previously pleaded not guilty to all the charges and opted for trial by judge and jury.
The decision to send Mr. Magnotta to trial came at the conclusion of a hearing that featured 32 Crown witnesses but no defence witnesses.
Pathologists, crime experts and many Montreal police officers testified for the Crown. Others included a journalist from Britain, a senior Conservative Party staffer, Canada Post employees and school officials from Vancouver. A man who was a friend of Mr. Lin was the only witness who actually knew the victim.
Mr. Magnotta’s legal team was unsuccessful in a bid to have the most serious charge of first-degree murder downgraded to second-degree murder.
On Friday, Mr. Magnotta sat impassively with his hands folded in his lap, dressed head-to-toe in white. He was unflinching as the judge dismissed the request for the lesser charge.
Defence lawyer Luc Leclair did not speak to reporters Friday.
A preliminary hearing typically does not draw such heavy media and public interest, but Mr. Magnotta’s court appearances were not ordinary.
There were a few twists in the case along the way. Mr. Magnotta’s lawyers were unsuccessful in a bid to have the media and public barred from attending the preliminary inquiry. While a publication ban on contents of the evidence at the preliminary inquiry stage is automatic, Mr. Magnotta’s team sought the extended ban due to the media attention surrounding the case.
The case was heard in a secured courtroom at the Montreal courthouse, with lengthy lineups, limited seating and heavy security on many days.
Throughout the hearing, the accused remained mostly stoic, occasionally appearing to brush away tears and sometimes closing his eyes as he listened to the evidence. On one occasion, Mr. Magnotta collapsed after viewing video evidence. The episode forced a brief delay.
During the proceedings, one of Mr. Magnotta’s lawyers was forced to step aside after the Crown raised the issue of a potential conflict of interest.
The criminal case will return to court on April 29 to begin the next stage of the process. The trial will be held in Quebec Superior Court.