Christie Blatchford | 13/03/19 | Last Updated: 13/03/19 7:28 PM ET
When I heard that Luka Magnotta had collapsed Tuesday in the
prisoner’s box at the Montreal courtroom where his preliminary hearing
was underway, I was unaccountably enraged.
While video evidence was being played, Mr. Magnotta apparently had
held a hand over his mouth, as if ill, sat with his eyes closed, as if
pained, and at one point appeared to be wiping away tears.
Then he asked for a break, and when the judge agreed, he stood up and fell to the floor, crumpled into the fetal position.
‘‘You might want to make room for an ambulance,’’ the Crown
prosecutor, Louis Bouthillier, told guards outside the courtroom.
Court adjourned for the day.
The prelim is in its second week, its purpose to determine if there’s
sufficient evidence to send the 30-year-old Mr. Magnotta on to trial.
I was there four days last week, including the day that Lin Diran,
the father whose only son, Lin Jun, was murdered and dismembered last
May, had to be led from the courtroom by the family lawyer, Dan Urbas.
That broken father was the very picture of dignity.
Told to brace himself for what he was about to see in court, as
prepared as a parent could be, he broke into muffled sobs and then
basically, and very quietly, fell into the arms of Mr. Urbas.
Now, Mr. Magnotta is of course presumed to be innocent and so he
remains, unless and until a jury finds him guilty beyond a reasonable
But Mr. Lin is not equally presumed to have lost a son; he did lose
one. Bits and pieces of his kid’s body were mailed across the country,
recovered incrementally. The only question is who did it.
Yet one day last week, an alert reader notified me that with the
online version of one of my stories, the caption accompanying a photo of
Mr. Lin referred to him as the “father of the alleged victim.”
There’s no allegation about Lin Jun’s death, nor is he an alleged
victim. The international student from China didn’t pass away of natural
causes at the age of 33. He was slaughtered.
There is a publication ban upon the evidence being heard at this
prelim, as there is for most. Journalists don’t usually cover
preliminary hearings for that reason. They are being necessarily and
properly careful about what they report from this one.
In addition, Mr. Magnotta’s lead lawyer, Luc Leclair of Toronto, has
taken an aggressive approach to the coverage of the hearing.
First, he wanted it closed completely to all but the lawyers and
court officials, and a ban even on the arguments about why he said it
should be secret. Quebec Court Judge Lori-Renee Weitzman dismissed that.
Almost as soon as she finished delivering the ruling, Mr. Leclair was
on his feet again to ask that she expand the normal pub ban to include
even descriptions of Mr. Magnotta.
The judge declined, but Mr. Leclair, at least throughout most of last
week, persisted to ask, in vain, almost daily that frills be added to
broaden the ban.
The effect has been to render the journalists covering the hearing
understandably nervous; thus, I suspect, the “alleged victim” reference
of last week, the notion being that if the media throw in a sufficient
number of “allegeds” into any given report, Mr. Leclair won’t be yapping
at their heels.
Once last week, some reporters excitedly noticed that Mr. Magnotta
appeared to be crying. I was sitting close to him, with a good view
through the glass of the prisoner’s box where he sits. I too noticed
that he was making wiping-type motions with his hand; I will leave it at
Over years in the criminal courts, I have learned that sometimes,
people cry, and sometimes, they merely appear to be crying. It’s why I
usually have binoculars with me, though I didn’t this day.
There is a world of difference between the collapse of a grieving
father whose son was murdered and dismembered and the collapse of the
fellow who is accused of doing those things to him.
In the lingo we all apparently have adopted, Mr. Lin’s distress was
real and he earned it in the most horrid imaginable way; Mr. Magnotta’s
Postmedia News, with files from Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press