MONTREAL – Alleged body-parts killer Luka Magnotta has chosen a trial by jury that will take place sometime next year, setting aside talk of a psychiatric evaluation for the time being.
A 10-day preliminary hearing is scheduled to begin on March 11, 2013, at which time the Crown will present its evidence in a murder case that has made headlines around the world.
The 29-year-old ex-porn actor appeared in person Thursday at the Montreal courthouse for the first time since he was charged in the murder and dismemberment of Chinese student Jun Lin, his former lover.
Members of Lin’s family watched the 10-minute hearing from an undisclosed location at the courthouse, said a Crown spokesman.
Magnotta wore a plaid shirt and dark blue jeans inside a glass-enclosed prisoner’s dock at a highly-secure courtroom. Armed constables scanned journalists and members of the public with metal detectors before allowing them inside.
The wannabe reality-show star stared straight ahead and made no eye contact during arguments by a beefed-up defence team that included Toronto lawyer Luc Leclair.
Leclair made no mention of a request for a psychiatric evaluation, despite suggestions to that effect on Tuesday by one of Magnotta's other lawyers, Pierre Panaccio.
Leclair did raise concerns about Magnotta’s “physical well-being and his mental well-being” at the high-security wing of the east-end Riviere-des-Prairies detention centre.
When pressed by Quebec Court judge Jean-Pierre Boyer, Leclair said Magnotta “has to be looked after medically” and that jail officials “have to make sure that he gets ... medication.”
The judge agreed to the request.
Crown prosecutor Louis Bouthillier asked for, and was granted, a publication ban on the type of medication, explaining that “it might become important eventually, I think it might be part of the evidence.”
Magnotta arrived in Canada from Germany on Monday under heavy security after fleeing to Europe following the discovery of Lin’s torso outside the defendant’s Montreal apartment. Lin’s body parts were mailed to the offices of Canadian political parties in Ottawa and public schools in Vancouver.
An Internet video shows a man being stabbed to death with an ice pick and cut to pieces. It also shows cannibalistic and necrophilic acts being performed on the body. Police say Lin is the victim shown in the video.
Outside the courtroom on Thursday, Leclair said Magnotta waived his right to contest extradition from Germany “because he wanted to come back to Montreal” and “trusts the Canadian judicial system.”
He said the defence team would make no further comment for the remainder of the proceedings.
Magnotta is charged with first-degree murder, indignity to a human body, distributing obscene material, corrupting morals and criminal harassment of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and members of Parliament.
The Crown had stated Tuesday that Luka Magnotta would appear exclusively by videoconference in the early stages of the case to avoid massive security details aimed at protecting him from reprisals.
But the Montreal courthouse was awash in rumours Thursday morning that the defendant would appear in person.
In the end, his lawyers decided that he should be brought downtown, and the security apparatus revved into high gear.
In the morning, the special courthouse constables were put on alert.
Shortly before 1 p.m., a white public security van with tinted windows arrived at the monolithic courthouse, siren flashing.
The van was escorted by several unmarked cars. It's not known if Lin's family was among the passengers.
The Crown said Lin’s relatives watched Thursday’s hearing from the courthouse, though they were kept well away from reporters and the public.
Lin's parents, sister and uncle arrived in Montreal two weeks ago and are being cared for by the Chinese consulate and members of the local Chinese community.
-- With files from Michael Nguyen
WHO IS LUC LECLAIR?
Magnotta had two new lawyers on his legal team for Thursday’s court appearance.
Montreal jurist Jean Dury and Toronto-based Luc Leclair joined Magnotta’s existing lawyer, Pierre Panaccio.
Leclair obtained special permission from the Quebec Bar Association to make arguments in court. Here’s a brief bio:
Hometown: Verner, Ont., just west of North Bay
Specialty: Criminal law
Other clients: Garfield Boothe, 31, charged with second-degree murder in the May 2011 death of 10-year-old son Shakeil Boothe in Brampton.
Past postings: Provincial prosecutor
Political affiliation: Conservative. One-time Northern Ontario organizer for provincial Conservative John Tory’s failed leadership bid. Also worked as organizer for failed federal Conservative leadership candidates Belinda Stronach and Peter McKay.