When Luka Magnotta returns before a judge for his preliminary hearing next week, he’ll seek to have the public banned entirely from the courtroom.
A publication ban on evidence heard at a preliminary hearing is
routine, but Magnotta’s lawyer has taken the unusual step of asking that
everyone be barred from the courtroom except the judge, the lawyers in
the case and the court clerk.
The motion states that the request stems from an unspecified reason
related to Magnotta’s personal and medical history, details of which are
not disclosed in the document.
The motion was filed in Quebec Court last Thursday by Luc Leclair,
Magnotta’s Toronto-based lawyer. It will be debated next Monday as
Magnotta’s preliminary inquiry is set to begin in Montreal.
The lengthy hearing will be used to determine whether Magnotta stands
trial. Quebec Court judge Lori-Renee Weitzman will hear the case and,
if it is sent to trial, the case will be heard by a different judge in
Quebec Superior Court.
Magnotta is charged with first-degree murder in the slaying and dismemberment of Chinese-born student Jun Lin last May.
He is accused of mailing body parts to different places including the
Ottawa offices of the Conservative Party of Canada, the Liberal Party
of Canada and two Vancouver schools.
Magnotta became the target of an international manhunt after parts of Lin’s body began turning up across the country.
Magnotta, 30, also faces other charges related to Lin’s death:
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 has previously pleaded not guilty and chosen trial by judge and jury.
His court appearances have attracted throngs of journalists jostling
for a spot in the high-security courtroom where he appeared. A 35-minute
procedural hearing attracted nearly two dozen reporters, camerapeople
A spokesman for the Crown prosecutor’s office said Monday that there wouldn’t be any comment until after the motion is debated.
Rene Verret said the Crown first wants a chance to hear the motion presented.
Magnotta’s preliminary hearing is expected to last at least two weeks
and several dates could also be added in June, if necessary.
One criminal attorney who is not connected to the Magnotta case said he has never heard of such a closed-door request before.
Steven Slimovitch said the publication ban is “almost automatic” at a
preliminary stage, with details heard there kept from the public until
charges are dropped or a criminal trial is complete.
But Slimovitch said he had never heard of the courtroom being cleared entirely.
The burden of proof will lie on Magnotta’s legal team, he said.
“(The closed-door provision is) in the (Criminal) Code for a reason
and presumably it is because it would affect the course of the inquiry,”
“The idea is that to secure a fair trial for the accused, all members of the public must be excluded.”
The provision in the Criminal Code notes that, under some
circumstances, nobody except “the prosecutor, the accused and their
counsel” might have access to the courtroom.
The written motion from Magnotta says that “the ends of justice will be best served by doing so.”
Several media outlets are lining up to challenge the request.
“Asking for the removal of everyone from the courtroom, that’s an
exceptional measure and you have to have very exceptional grounds to be
able to show that, without this, the accused would not get a fair
trial,” Slimovitch said.
Leclair did not immediately return a call Monday.
The Canadian Press