Friday, December 26, 2014

Luka Magnotta sentenced to life imprisonment for first degree murder

Luka Rocco Magnotta is taken by police from a Canadian military plane to a waiting van on Monday, June 18, 2012 in Mirabel, Quebec.
The Canadian Press
Luka Rocco Magnotta remained impassive as one of the 12 jurors who deliberated his fate uttered the word “guilty” to all five charges against him in the slaying and dismemberment of Jun Lin, including first-degree murder.

Magnotta was later sentenced to life imprisonment on the murder charge, with no chance of applying for parole for 25 years.

On the four non-murder charges, the native of Scarborough, Ont., was given the maximum terms allowed under the Criminal Code, ranging from two to 10 years. The sentences are concurrent.

His lawyer, Luc Leclair, told reporters his client was “disappointed” but “relieved.”

“He came here to face the jury, to put his life in the jury’s hands,” said Leclair, who continued to argue that Magnotta is schizophrenic.

“This is the verdict, so he accepts it.” Inevitably, Leclair was asked about the possibility of an appeal.

“Mr. Magnotta will take the time to look at the merits of an appeal, the grounds of appeal,” the lawyer said. “There are some. But today is not the time to address this question. It has been a long and challenging road and I need some rest.”

The Crown had sought the maximum, while Leclair left it to the judge’s discretion.

Magnotta, 32, did not testify at the trial and had nothing to say before Quebec Superior Court Justice Guy Cournoyer sentenced him.

Crown prosecutor Louis Bouthillier said he was fully expecting the jury to deliver the five guilty verdicts.

“We’re not really surprised,” he said. “I thought we had good evidence of premeditation and the fact that the crime was planned and deliberate.

“It’s always a great feeling for a Crown prosecutor to hear the word ‘guilty’ come out of the mouth of a juror at the end of a trial.”

The prosecutor lauded the work of the jurors, who began hearing the case in late September and delivered the verdicts on their eighth day of deliberations.

“There was close to 11 weeks of testimony,” Bouthillier said.

“Obviously they had to work with difficult, very difficult legal issues. I want to salute the work of the jury. Individually, the 12 jurors were really magnificent and they did an outstanding job.”

After the verdicts, a lawyer read out an impact statement on behalf of Lin’s father, Diran Lin, who watched proceedings throughout the trial from a private room in the courthouse.

“I had come to see your trial system to see justice done and I leave satisfied that you have not let my son down,” Daniel Urbas told the emotionally charged room.

“I had come to learn what happened to my son that night and I leave without a true or a complete answer. I had come to see remorse, to hear some form of apology, and I leave without anything.”

Earlier, the trial judge also had words of praise for the jurors.

“While it may not always be obvious to everyone, a jury trial is one of the most unfailing tests of the civilization of any country,” Cournoyer told them as he quoted Sir Winston Churchill.

“We have asked a lot of you but you rose to the occasion and indeed proved that real and substantive justice is a reality in action.

The other charges Magnotta was convicted of were criminally harassing Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other members of Parliament; mailing obscene and indecent material; committing an indignity to a body; and publishing obscene materials.

Magnotta was seeking to be found not criminally responsible in the May 2012 slaying by way of mental disorder, with experts testifying he was in a psychotic state the night of the killing and couldn’t tell right from wrong.

The Crown countered the crime was both planned and deliberate and that Magnotta’s behaviour and actions went against someone supposedly suffering from a disease of the mind.

As Magnotta had admitted to the physical acts, the jury’s task was to determine his state of mind at the time.

The criminal case captured headlines worldwide in 2012 when the little-known porn actor and escort with an enormous Internet footprint became a household name after being linked to a horrific crime posted online.

Through 10 weeks of testimony, the jury heard details of Lin’s death and that many of Magnotta’s actions were caught on surveillance video or in images taken by the accused himself.

They also heard about Magnotta’s upbringing and delved into medical files that showed he was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2001.

Roughly half of the 40 days of testimony were dedicated to forensic psychiatrists who presented duelling versions of whether Magnotta was of sound mind during the crimes.

The key piece of evidence for the Crown was an email that described Magnotta’s macabre plan was actually telegraphed some six months before Lin’s slaying.

A British reporter, Alex West, confronted Magnotta in London in December 2011 about cat killing videos that had created a stir online. The accused denied being the author before saying in an email to West two days later that cats were just the beginning and that his next movie would include a human subject.

The Crown said the plan was set in motion in mid-May with the filming of a mystery Colombian man, asleep and naked on Magnotta’s bed while he straddled him with an electric saw in his hand.

Fifty-three seconds of that footage found its way into the “One Lunatic, One Ice Pick” video that shows Lin’s dismemberment.

The mystery man, drowsy but unharmed, left Magnotta’s apartment the next day with the help of the accused.

According to Magnotta, he met Lin through a Craigslist advertisement seeking a partner for bondage.

The evidence suggested that Lin had been drugged and had his throat slit. The murder itself was not caught on “One Lunatic, One Ice Pick.”

In the roughly 48 hours following the slaying, Magnotta cut up Lin’s body into 10 pieces, mailing the hands and feet to political offices in Ottawa and primary schools in Vancouver. He also bought a plane ticket for Paris online.

When police put out a warrant for his arrest, Magnotta emptied his bank accounts and fled to Berlin on the same day.

He was ultimately arrested in an Internet cafe in the German city on June 4, 2012, where a witness said Magnotta was reading up on himself.

He was eventually transferred to a Berlin prison hospital, where a psychiatrist’s initial diagnosis was that he was psychotic.

The body parts were recovered in the trash outside Magnotta’s apartment and the four locations they were mailed. Lin’s skull was found in a west-end Montreal park on July 1, 2012 after a Toronto lawyer mailed directions to the body.

Packages to Ottawa contained notes referencing Harper and his wife Laureen.

Magnotta told psychiatrists he became convinced that Lin was a government agent sent to kill him and that voices in his head told him to commit the murder.

The jury heard Magnotta’s voice once, through a surreptitiously recorded interview by West. Otherwise, he kept his head low for most of the trial.

Leclair told the jury to dismiss the experts and to put themselves in the mind of someone suffering from schizophrenia. He told them to consult Magnotta’s voluminous medical records, which included a schizophrenia diagnosis dating back to 2001.

Crown experts countered that Magnotta’s schizophrenia diagnosis was erroneous and that he actually suffers from a variety of personality disorders, which are not mental illness.’

Lin, 33, was born in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province. He had only been living in Canada since 2011, realizing a long-standing dream by coming to Montreal. Magnotta arrived in the city just months earlier in 2011.

At the time of his death, Lin was enrolled as an engineering student at Concordia University and worked as a part-time convenience store clerk.

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